The ARDC Review Board has recommended a 60-day suspension for a lawyer who made a material misstatement in a motion to vacate a conviction. In Illinois an old conviction, even if you have led a blameless life, can lead to dire consequences because you are forever barred from holding any professional license – even one to cut hair. This harsh rule has been criticized and challenged but it has stood the test of time. Here a lawyer made a false statement in a motion to vacate a conviction and the Review Board has recommended a 60-day suspension.
In March 2017, Respondent agreed to represent Courtney Chester in an effort to have her 2001 battery conviction voided so that she could apply to nursing school. Chester was 17 when she was charged with battery, but she had turned 18 on the day before she pled guilty to the charge. Thus, she was 18 at the time of her guilty plea and conviction. Respondent knew she was 18 when she pled guilty.
“Respondent began conversations with Assistant States Attorney Joseph Lesner about Chester’s situation. Lesner told him to get a motion on file. Respondent thus prepared and filed with the court a motion to vacate Chester’s guilty plea and conviction. In the motion, Respondent stated that Chester was 17 at the time she was charged and sentenced. He further stated: “As [Chester] was only 17 at the time of the plea and conviction[,] her plea and conviction should properly be voided.” (Admin. Ex. 1 at 5.) He knew that statement was false when he filed the motion, because he knew that Chester was 18 when she entered her guilty plea and was sentenced.
Respondent also sent a cover letter to Lesner explaining the motion, in which he stated that Chester was “trying to become a nurse and to do so she needs to remove her conviction for battery in 2001. She was 17 at the time and was eligible for court supervision.” (Admin. Ex. 1 at 6.)
About a month after filing the motion, Respondent appeared in court on the motion to vacate, in front of Winnebago County Circuit Court Associate Judge Brian Shore. Judge Shore questioned him about the basis of the motion, pointing out that Chester was 18
when she pled guilty and that the motion, on its face, was not correct. Respondent told Judge Shore that he did not look at the actual plea date and that, when he wrote the motion, he believed Chester was 17 at the time of her plea, but subsequently determined that she was over that age. The judge continued to press Respondent about the incorrect statement, and Respondent continued to assert to the judge that he did not intend to state something false. The judge dismissed the motion to vacate because of the “blatantly false allegation.” (Admin. Ex. 3 at 3-8.) At his disciplinary hearing, Respondent acknowledged that his statements to Judge Shore that he did not look at the actual plea date and that he believed when he wrote the motion that Chester was 17 when she pled guilty were false. (Report of Proceedings at 34-35.)”
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