With Thanksgiving having just passed and the New Year almost upon us, it’s a time for goal setting. For many people this means they want to get out of their unhappy marriage and think about divorce.  January is traditionally the most popular month for divorce filings.

Of course to file for divorce you have to be ready, both emotionally and financially. If you aren’t working, it’s not uncommon to be nervous about proceeding with a divorce.

Stay-at-home moms in Chicago provide so much value to their families. Taking care of children requires a lot of work: grocery shopping, food preparation and cleanup; transporting the kids to school and their activities in sun, rain, and snow; helping them with their homework, etc. Of course, being a stay-at-home mom often goes beyond taking care of the children. Many clean and maintain the house, do the laundry for the whole family, take care of the finances, run errands, take care of the cars, do some gardening and yard work, and the list goes on.

Various companies have tried over the years to assign a dollar amount to the value stay-at-home moms provide to their families. In May 2021, Insure.com said that a mom should earn about $116,022 for the many jobs she must tackle every day. Meanwhile, Salary.com in 2019 estimated the figure at $178,201.

It’s clear that stay-at-homes add a great deal of value to the family. The reality is though, that moms do not get a paycheck for their work. And sadly, when a couple has decided to get a divorce, a stay-at-home mom might feel like she is at a huge disadvantage in the legal arena. Perhaps she doesn’t feel like she can hire or pay for a high-powered, experienced attorney like her husband can. Perhaps she is worried about “wasting” money on legal bills when the higher priorities in her mind are saving money for her and the children’s future needs.

The good news is that when one party in a divorce earns all the money, the other party (i.e., stay-at-home mom) can get a court order to have the breadwinner pay her legal fees. She doesn’t have to let her husband’s attorney “work things out for the both of them.” That attorney will not have her best interests at heart. She doesn’t have to settle for average or below-average legal representation, either. She can hire a reputable, experienced lawyer who can go toe to toe with her husband’s attorney because, again, the court order can require her husband to pay her legal bills.

There is no guarantee this will happen, but typically the first thing your lawyer will do is file a motion for lawyer fees. In the alternative, if you have access to bank accounts, you can almost always take that money to pay for a retainer. Beyond, that you can expect additional compensation while the case is going on in the form of temporary maintenance (often thought of as alimony) and/or child support.

Some other tips for stay-at-home moms who might be getting a divorce include gathering financial information (e.g., tax returns, investment account balances and holdings, retirement savings), documenting exactly what she does on a daily basis to take care of the children and the family as a whole, and documenting the expenses she incurs on a weekly or monthly basis.

But don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s never an easy process at first and consulting with a lawyer doesn’t mean a divorce is happening. What it would mean is that you are finding out your rights and obligations and able to get a game plan together. Then you can make an educated decision as to what you want to do. If you would like to speak to a divorce lawyer for free to learn more about this process, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.

Salespeople are a unique part of the working world. They are typically outgoing, persistent people, who regularly face rejection but soldier on. Sales reps are often compensated differently than other workers. Employers commonly pay their salespeople a commission.  

A commission is money paid upon completion of a task, usually the task of selling a certain amount of goods or services. The commission can be a percentage of the sales or a flat dollar amount based on sales volume.  

A commission-based pay system motivates salespeople to sell more. More sales equals more money in their pockets. And for salespeople in Illinois, a special employment law is in place to protect them and their rightfully earned commissions.  

The Illinois Sales Representative Act (ISRA) regulates how employers must pay commissions. The ISRA has three main points: 1) when commissions come due to the employee; 2) how employers should handle commissions that are owed to an employee who has been terminated; and 3) penalties to employers if they do not comply with the Act.  

There are a few scenarios in the ISRA regarding when the employer must pay the commissions. If the employee’s contract lays out a due date for the commission, then that is the due date. But if the employee works without a contract, or the contract doesn’t include a due date, then the employer’s past practice of when they paid the employee commissions holds. Lastly, if the employer just recently hired the salesperson, and therefore there is no past practice, then the Act uses the standard industry practice to determine when the employer owes commissions. 

The second main point of the Act details requirements for paying commissions to terminated employees. If the employer owes any commissions to the employee at the time he/she is terminated, then the employer must pay those commissions within 13 days of the termination. In addition, if more commissions come due after the employee is let go, then the employer must pay those no later than 13 days after they come due. 

Even if an employee waived their right to collect commissions after they are terminated, the ISRA says that waiver will not be enforced. In layman’s terms, a sales rep can’t be stiffed, even after they have been fired. You did the work and closed the sale. You will get the commission you earned. 

The Act also details severe penalties for employers who fail to comply with the guidelines for when to pay commissions. A salesperson can sue them for failure to pay, and receive up to three times the value of the commissions. The employer may also be ordered to cover the employee’s court costs and attorney’s fees. So in plain English that means it costs nothing typically to hire an attorney to help you go after commission that you are owed. Beyond that, because they have to pay your lawyer fees and potentially triple the amount owed, a lawsuit can bring real leverage to getting you the result you are entitled to.

If you are a salesperson who believes that your employer violated the ISRA or just have questions, please contact us for FREE any time to speak with a lawyer. We can be reached at 312-346-5320.

The short answer to this blog post is no.

The medium answer is “Ha ha, no.”

The longer answer requires an explanation as to my strong opinion on why this is nonsense. There are tons of attorney awards out there.  A lot of really amazing attorneys get them.  And some really crappy ones do too.

A couple of months ago I got a digital magazine honoring the “top 50 women in law.”  The first thing I noticed was an old law school classmate of mine was honored. I haven’t talked to her in the 24 years since we graduated, but have followed her career from afar.  She was the smartest person in my class, very nice, a hard worker and it’s no surprise she’s a great attorney.

A closer look though showed a few things.  First, most of the honored women came from law firms. By my count, 43 of the 50 worked at law firms, most of those at really big law firms. The remaining seven were either Judges, non-profit workers or in Government. Of note, there wasn’t more than one woman at any law firm chosen that I saw.  Why is that important?

Well, these publications make money by getting these big law firms to take out ads to congratulate the people in their firm who get chosen. By my count, there were 23 lawyer ads offering congrats.  While there is no requirement that an ad be bought for a woman to be selected, these large law firms have the budget to do so and seem to do so on a regular basis when other awards are made.

So while it does appear that most of the women on this list are great, are they the “top 50?” Of course not. It was a second annual list and unlike rankings for something like basketball recruits, the list changed completely. And of course there are amazing attorneys at small law firms and more than one “top” attorney at big firms like the one my classmate is a partner at.

Similar things happen with 40 under 40 lists and not just in law, but in other industries.   It’s not that bad people are chosen, it’s that it’s important for the public to know that these awards are money makers and nothing official.  In other words, don’t use it as a reason to hire an attorney or not hire one.

Bonus story. Years ago I was “awarded” as a top attorney from some company I’d never heard of. To make it official I had to order their plaque which cost around $100.  I thanked them for the honor, but said I didn’t want a plaque.  Well, since I wouldn’t pay for the plaque I was no longer on their list.  Most award companies aren’t that brazen, but that one certainly was and gave me a good chuckle.

The most common question that gets asked in any Illinois personal injury lawsuit is, “What is my case worth?” I get it. People want to know how they will be compensated for the pain and agony they’ve gone through.

Most cases just aren’t worth that much. There are two reasons for that.  The first is that your injuries are small. If you get hit by a car and need a month of physical therapy, that case has value, but not much.  In other cases you might have significant damages, but if there is only $50,000.00 worth of insurance out there, that’s likely all you will get.

In some cases though there is a really significant injury or death and there is large or unlimited insurance because the defendant is a corporation or some other entity that is heavily insured. Think of a situation like an airplane crash or if a CTA bus driver ran a red light. A major airline or the City of Chicago can pay out any award made by a jury.

So how do you get a multi-million dollar settlement or trial verdict.  There are a bunch of factors, some obvious and others not so obvious.

  1. Big damages. As discussed, you can get hit by a drunk driving bus driver, but if your injuries are small, the value of the case is small.
  2. Strong liability. You might become paralyzed during a surgery, but if you can’t prove it was due to medical negligence, the chances of recovery aren’t great.
  3. Who your lawyer is. This ultimately becomes the biggest factor. There’s a reason why a handful of law firms in Illinois get the biggest results year in and year out.  And there are so many reasons why a case is worth more in the hands of certain lawyers than it is in others.
  • These lawyers have a track record of success, so the insurance company assumes a bigger potential loss which increases room to negotiate.
  • These firms know how to properly investigate cases.  If you are in a truck crash or industrial accident, it’s important to have the scene examined ASAP.  They’ve done this many times before and have experts on call to get the job done. This initial work can ultimately be the difference of millions of dollars in the end.
  • They know how to find hidden insurance. Many trucking companies operate shell companies in order to make it appear as if their trucks are small companies when really they are a subsidiary of a much larger company. Inexperienced lawyers might tell you that there is only a $1 million insurance policy when in fact there is ten times that out there.
  • They have trial skills for bigger cases.  If there is a catastrophic injury it often is a complex case which could mean a two week or more trial as lots of experts will need to testify.  That is way different than handling a car accident trial that lasts a day.
  • They have money to finance these cases. Getting experts costs money.  Creating videos that show what a victim’s life is like now cost money. Those things are investments in your case in order to greatly increase the value of your case. But they aren’t cheap. It’s not unusual for a lawyer to spend $300,000.00 of their own money with no guarantee of a payback if you don’t win. Firms that haven’t won these cases many times before can’t afford to do that.  The ones that can make your case worth more money.
  • They know the best experts.  The best experts want to work with the best firms.  All of this increases your case value.
  • They are able to turn down a large offer when they know your case is worth more. $5 million is a huge case result. But if the case is really worth $10 million, settling for five would be a bad idea. Some lawyers can’t risk losing the fee they’d get from a $5 million case and won’t have the guts to tell you to not take it. An experienced, successful lawyer will only act in your best interests even if settling would still get them a great fee.

The point to take away is that if your case could be worth millions, there are about ten firms in Illinois where having them makes the case worth significantly more than if you get a less reputable law firm. If you would like our recommendation as to the best Illinois personal injury law firm for you, please contact us for free at 312-346-5320. We help with legal advice and attorney referrals everywhere in Illinois.

There isn’t a much more exciting event than the delivery of your child.  There are so many unknowns and such an anticipation of joy. Usually things go very smoothly, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.  We have helped thousands of people investigate possible medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois for birth injuries. While not every injury is a lawsuit, every serious injury is worth investigating. These are the six most common ones that lead to lawsuits being filed against doctors, nurses and/or hospitals.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that impairs movement and affects muscle tone or posture. CP is caused by damage that occurs to the developing brain, sometimes during birth. People with CP may experience stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity), variations in muscle tone, and/or lack of balance and muscle coordination, among other symptoms.  When the flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain is interrupted during childbirth, cells in the brain quickly begin to die. This is what eventually leads to cerebral palsy.  These damages can be catastrophic and turn an otherwise healthy child in to someone who needs a lifetime of care.

Shoulder Dystocia

In a full-term or post-term pregnancy when the baby is very big, they might be too big to go safely through the birth canal. The OBGYN should recognize this and perform a C-section. If they don’t, the baby’s shoulder might be wedged behind the mother’s pelvic bone. The doctor may use excessive pressure or force to dislodge the baby’s shoulder, leading to a shoulder dystocia injury.

Brachial Plexus Injuries (Erb’s Palsy)

The brachial plexus is the network of nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulder, arm, and hand. A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or torn from the spinal cord. Newborns can suffer from brachial plexus injuries, often associated with high birth weight, breech position, or prolonged labor. If an infant’s shoulders get stuck within the birth canal, there is a higher risk of brachial plexus palsy.  While sometimes these injuries get better, quite often it can lead to years of physical therapy and a lifetime of complications.

Skull/Bone Fractures
When a baby becomes stuck during delivery, the OBGYN must deliver the baby quickly. Sometimes this results in the doctor pulling too harshly or being too aggressive while using birth-assistance tools, which may lead to a skull fracture or fractured clavicle. A doctor or nurse dropping a baby shortly after birth may also be a cause of a skull or other bone fracture, but that is less common.  What you should know is that fractures are not an expected outcome of most deliveries so if your child has one it should be investigated by a lawyer.

Facial Paralysis

During labor or birth, sometimes when forceps are used for delivery, pressure on a baby’s face may injure the facial nerve. This injury is evident when the baby cries. There is no movement on the side of the face with the injury, and the baby can’t close their eye. The paralysis may improve in a few weeks if the nerve was only bruised. However, if the nerve was torn, surgery may be necessary.  Whether or not a lawsuit is worth pursuing usually comes down to the recovery made by the child.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow during or near the time of birth. Other terms used for HIE include birth asphyxia, perinatal asphyxia, and neonatal encephalopathy. In some cases, therapeutic hypothermia given very quickly after the injury may prevent or minimize permanent brain damage. However, with or without that treatment, many infants with HIE develop permanent disorders including cerebral palsy, cognitive disabilities, epilepsy, and others. The largest birth injury lawsuit we’ve ever been involved in came from a HIE case where fetal monitoring strips failed.

Note that while in most cases you have eight years to sue whoever was negligent for a birth injury, it can be as little as two years from when it happened in some cases such as if your doctor was provided through a Federally funded clinic. It’s possible you won’t know that they are so we highly recommend talking to a lawyer as soon as you are aware of an injury. If you would like to speak to an experienced attorney for FREE, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.

If you read/watch the news, you’ve probably heard about the shameful episode involving the Chicago Blackhawks. In sum, back in 2010, a player on the Stanley Cup winning team reported that the video coach, Brad Aldrich, had sexually abused and harassed him.  That coach wasn’t immediately fired.  A police report wasn’t made. And Aldrich was allowed a day with the Stanley Cup after the victory.

The player was only 20 at the time and wasn’t a fully rostered member of the team. The coach was 27 and allegedly invited the player to his apartment for drinks ad said he had the ability to get him on the full time roster.  They dispute whether or not the sexual encounter they had was consensual. The coach allegedly threatened the player that if he didn’t act like he liked the encounter he would make it so he never played in the NHL again.

A lawsuit was filed in May of this year which led to an investigation and a report by a law firm hired by the team. The lawsuit was filed under the Illinois Gender Violence Act which as of 2019 allows you to sue your employer for acts committed by employees.  It allows anyone who is the victim of gender related violence, including molestation or sexual abuse, to bring a lawsuit for monetary damages.

Unlike regular personal injury cases that have a two year time limit, the Illinois Gender Violence Act has a seven year time limit for filing a lawsuit.  In this case, the suit wasn’t filed until 11 years after the sexual encounter occurred.

So from a lawyer’s standpoint, the question is, how is this case going to proceed further. I have been told by another lawyer that there are motions to dismiss the lawsuit already on file and I would expect that those will be granted. I’ve also been told that the plaintiff in this case is saying that they had a repressed memory of what happened which is why they didn’t file the lawsuit in time. That’s a novel theory that has only in the past been used by people who were sexually abused as minors. The time limit for suing in those cases starts when the memory becomes clear again and you are an adult.

In this case, the law firm report and other statements make clear to me that the memory wasn’t repressed right after it happened as the victim told friends and has made statements about how this experience ruined his marriage. I think ultimately the lawsuit will be dismissed.

Does that mean the victim will end up with nothing? While I don’t think he will get a windfall through the courts, it would not shock me at all if he gets a significant payment from the Blackhawks as an act of good will due to their cover up of this situation.  I’ve seen that before in other cases where a company wants to make good on a bad situation and also make that situation go away.

It’s not a strategy I would suggest to most people.  You definitely want to file a lawsuit before the time limits are up. The Catholic Church for example did appear to pay out some cases that missed the time limits for filing but as more cases have come forward they’ve been vigorous in their defenses.

If you have any questions about the Illinois Gender Violence Act or sexual abuse lawsuits, you can call us for free and in confidence at 312-346-5320.

Although Lake County Illinois has around 700,000 people in it, it’s court system in some ways is similar to a small town. By that I mean that it’s really a place where if you don’t know the Judge your case is before, you are really fighting with one hand tied behind your back. The is especially true for divorce an family law cases in Lake County.

Those hearings take place at the Waukegan courthouse which is at 18 N. County Street.  It’s also known as the 19th Judicial Circuit Court.  At the court there are six dedicated Judges for family law cases.  They typically get rotated in and out around the first quarter of the year when a new Chief Judge is appointed or occasionally when there is an election.

Currently of the six Judges, two are female and four are male. Naturally all Judges are different and while they are supposed to make rulings based on the law, it’s common sense that everyone has certain biases. Some Judges favor women, others skew toward men.

What is really important for you is to get a lawyer who knows all of these Judges and appears before them on a regular basis. In general, Judges will favor attorneys they deal with on a regular basis over ones that they’ve never met before and aren’t as familiar with how their courtroom works. This is especially true in Lake County. It really has a reputation of favoring the locals.  That means you are best served by hiring a lawyer that not only specializes in family law, but also has an office in the county, preferably in or close to Waukegan.

While not every out of town lawyer gets a bad result, over time it’s truly the lawyers who are regularly before these Judges that have clients who end up winning their cases. These lawyers also know the guardian ad litems that are often appointed by the Court and in fact many of these attorneys themselves get appointed as guardians. These relationships truly can be the difference between winning and losing a case.

Beyond that, the best attorneys bill honestly.  By that I mean they aren’t going to make false charges for research or claim to be in court on your case for two hours when they are really only there for five minutes.  You don’t want to go bankrupt because you filed for divorce or petitioned the court for child support.

And finally, the best lawyer for you depends on you. Some people are more comfortable with a female lawyer. Others want a man. Maybe you need a lawyer experienced with forensic accounting or good at handling QDRO’s.  We view our job to learn about your case and then recommend whoever we think is the right fit.

If you’d like to speak to an attorney for free to ask questions or get a referral to a great Lake County family law attorney, please contact us at 312-346-5320.

It’s been about 24 years since I started working as a lawyer. My first job was with a mid-sized firm and they provided me with a lot of training. I had a mentor, a supervisor and was just a shadow for my first couple of months. They brought me along very slowly.  I wasn’t in a position to give clients legal advice until I had been there for almost six months.

I remember having classmates who had a completely opposite experience.  We were sworn in to practice law on November 6 which was a Thursday and some of my friends were in court handling actual cases on Friday.  They were with smaller firms who when we interviewed told us that they wanted us to get real world experience right away and be “thrown in to the fire.”

At the time it seemed exciting and I was a little bit jealous. I was looking at solely from the standpoint of what I wanted to do or my classmates wanted to do. Being young and inexperienced, I wasn’t thinking about who mattered most; the client.

Is it possible a young lawyer can do a good job on a case? Sure it’s possible. Maybe they are so eager that they go way overboard and give you the best representation possible. More likely though is that they don’t know what they don’t know and that is going to harm you.

There is one Chicago workers’ compensation firm that is notorious for hiring newer attorneys and just throwing them in to the fire. I get a lot of calls from their clients when their attorney can’t answer questions or doesn’t seem to know what they are talking about. In one case they failed to advise a fired worker about the time limits for bringing a case before the EEOC and didn’t refer them to a proper lawyer. In another instead of explaining how a settlement would work, they just asked the client what they wanted. I’ve seen dozens of cases where they’ve screwed up badly or left a lot of money on the table.

For the young attorneys they do get experience, but they make mistakes while practicing on your real life situation.  You aren’t paying a lower attorney fee in most cases, so there’s no reason to get representation that isn’t what it should be.

Often these firms will tell you that the lawyer is working under the supervision of a more seasoned person. But if that’s true then why can’t you just have the experienced lawyer and why do they never seem to be available to you?

The bottom line is that I’d be very wary of hiring a lawyer who hasn’t been in practice for at least three years.  We usually don’t recommend anyone with less than five years experience and most attorneys we suggest have been in practice for more than ten years.  Attorneys never stop learning and won’t ever know everything, but you want the learning curve to be as small as possible.  It’s your case and your life. Insisting on an attorney with a proven track record is the safest way to go.

Last month, 22 lawyers were voted for positions as Associate Judge in Cook County.  It’s not the public that votes for them, but instead the 249 sitting Judges in Cook County.  These associate Judges have mostly the same responsibilities as regular Judges, but typically don’t hear felony cases and earn slightly less.  Here is the list of the new Judges.  See if you can pick out what the most common trait is:

Marcia M. Meis, director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, announced the judges were selected in a vote of Cook County Circuit Court judges from a ballot of 44 finalists, distributed to 249 circuit judges.

The new judges are:

Maryam Ahmad, of Chicago, 57. Admitted to the Bar: 2000. College: Chatham College. Law School: DePaul University College of Law. Current Affiliation: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Lloyd J. Brooks, 50, of Homewood. Admitted to the Bar: 2000. College: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Law School: Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Current Affiliation: The Brooks Law Firm.

Barbara L. Dawkins, 49, of Homewood. Admitted to the Bar: 1998. College: Northwestern University. Law School: Vanderbilt Law School. Current Affiliation: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

James T. Derico, Jr., 61, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 1985. College: University of Notre Dame. Law School: University of Pennsylvania Law School. Current Affiliation: Derico & Associates.

Sabra L. Ebersole, 54, of River Forest. Admitted to the Bar: 1993. College: Loyola University Chicago. Law School: DePaul University College of Law. Current Affiliation: Law Office of Sabra Ebersole.

Carl L. Evans, Jr., 55, of Tinley Park. Admitted to the Bar: 1993. College: Northern Illinois University. Law School: The John Marshall Law School. Current Affiliation: Law Offices of Carl Evans, Jr.

William N. Fahy, 58, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 1990. College: Northern Illinois University. Law School: The John Marshall Law School. Current Affiliation: Law Office of William N. Fahy, Ltd.

Barbara N. Flores, 44, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 2004. College: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Law School: HT/Chicago-Kent College of Law. Current Affiliation: Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Mitchell B. Goldberg, 47, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 1999. College: DePaul University. Law School: DePaul University College of Law. Current Affiliation: Lawrence Kamin, LLC.

Jasmine V. Hernandez, 41, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 2008. College: Boston University. Law School: University of Illinois College of Law. Current Affiliation: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Matthew W. Jannusch, 46, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 2001. College: North Central College. Law School: Northern Illinois University College of Law. Current Affiliation: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Martha-Victoria Jimenez, 46, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 2002. College: University of Illinois at Chicago. Law School: University of Illinois College of Law. Current Affiliation: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Diana E. Lopez, 46, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 2001. College: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Law School: Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Current Affiliation: Lopez Law Group, P.C.

Kerrie E. Maloney Laytin, 50, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 1998. College: New York University. Law School: Columbia University School of Law. Current Affiliation: Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Thomas A. Morrissey, 62, of Riverside. Admitted to the Bar: 1985. College: Marquette University. Law School: DePaul University College of Law. Current Affiliation: Law Offices of Thomas A. Morrissey.

James B. Novy, 51, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 1997. College: Loyola University Chicago. Law School: Northern Illinois University College of Law. Current Affiliation: Rock Fusco & Connelly, LLC.

Eric M. Sauceda, 48, of Bartlett. Admitted to the Bar: 1999. College: DePaul University. Law School: University of Illinois College of Law. Current Affiliation: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Theresa M. Smith Conyers, 49, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 1999. College: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Law School: University of Illinois College of Law. Current Affiliation: City of Chicago Department of Law.

Ankur Srivastava, 41, of Glenview. Admitted to the Bar: 2005. College: Northwestern University. Law School: Yale Law School. Current Affiliation: U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Pamela J. Stratigakis, 45, of Chicago. Admitted to the Bar: 2001. College: Loyola University Chicago. Law School: DePaul University College of Law. Current Affiliation: Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard and Smith, LLP.

Anthony C. Swanagan, 61, of Flossmoor. Admitted to the Bar: 1987. College: Northwestern University. Law School: University of Chicago Law School. Current Affiliation: Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Andreana A. Turano, 54, of Northfield. Admitted to the Bar: 1993. College: University of Chicago. Law School: The John Marshall Law School. Current Affiliation: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Of those 22 new Judges, 11 come from Government positions, with most of those being former prosecutors. Not one of them is a public defender.  To me this is a problem.

We should want a diverse judiciary. Not just diverse in gender or race, but also in legal background.  Public defenders bring a different perspective to the bench than those who have spent their time trying to put people in jail.

I can’t say that any of these Judges aren’t qualified or won’t do a good job. I don’t know most of them. But the problem is that they are elected by Judges who have a similar background to them and in many cases by Judges who used to work with them as prosecutors.  This of course keeps like minded people in these positions which in my opinion is a bad idea.

I don’t think the process will ever change, but it would be nice if someone would advocate for all sorts of backgrounds for these very important positions.

While most of the Illinois attorneys I come across are honest and do their best for their clients, the reality is that when you have over 90,000 lawyers, some will be unethical.  It bothers me because it taints the whole profession and makes the public not trust attorneys. While the reality is that it’s a few bad apples, not a bad orchard, the perception is the opposite.

The good news is that unethical lawyers do get disciplined and some permanently lose their license. The ARDC just handed down some discipline and the following, via the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, lists why. I was disturbed by the end of the legal career of Bryan Flangel. I had cases with him years ago and he seemed like a decent guy. The reality though is you never know what someone is going through personally or financially and why they act the way they do.  I don’t know what happened to him (or anyone on this list), but it is all unfortunate.  And in some cases, I do wonder how people stay out of jail because some of these are straight up theft.

Disbarred

Of the six attorneys disbarred, two involved cases including out-of-state misconduct. All but two were disbarred on consent.

Barry Edward Blumenfeld of Chicago, licensed in 1967, was disbarred on consent. He converted more than $67,000 in settlement funds that belonged to a client and third parties in a workers’ compensation matter and made a false statement to the ARDC during its investigation.

Bryan S. Flangel of Chicago, licensed in 1992, was disbarred on consent. While representing clients in personal injury matters, he provided financial assistance to two clients, misrepresented the status of matters to at least two clients, and signed a client’s name on a settlement release without authority.

James Mark McTighe of Tinley Park, licensed in 1991, was disbarred on consent. He converted more than $29,000 in client funds to his own use, falsely reported the status of cases and settlements to his clients, and neglected a number of insurance subrogation matters.

Michael Bernard Potere of West Newton, Mass., was licensed in Illinois in 2012 and in California in 2015. He was disbarred by the Supreme Court of California because of his attempt to extort more than $200,000 from his employer. His actions resulted in a misdemeanor conviction and five-month prison sentence for the federal crime of unauthorized access to a computer to obtain information. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and entered an order disbarring him in Illinois.

John George Steckel of Rock Island, licensed in 2000, was disbarred on consent. He pleaded guilty in two Rock Island County cases to charges of possession of a controlled substance and delivery of methamphetamine. The Illinois Supreme Court said his disbarment on consent was retroactive to his interim suspension from practice on Jan. 29, 2019.

Henry A. Weber of Lake Forest, licensed in 1984, was disbarred. He has felony convictions in Florida for theft of sales tax. While operating a chain of restaurants in the Tampa area, he unlawfully withheld more than $100,000 in sales tax that should have been remitted to the state of Florida. Weber did not participate in his Illinois disciplinary proceedings.

Suspended

Six of the 19 suspended lawyers were licensed in both Illinois and another state. The misconduct in those cases resulted in disciplinary rulings in the respective other states.

Craig Carnell Cunningham of Naperville, licensed in 1994, was suspended for six months effective Oct. 14, 2021. A disciplinary investigation was opened against him because of fraudulent activity. Cunningham manages his own law firm and did not review his law firms accounts, nor did he know the source of funds in those accounts or how the funds were expended. His wife is a paralegal at the firm and fraudulently opened accounts in the firm’s name using names of relatives. The funds from those accounts were used to pay for law firm and personal expenses. Cunningham also made false statements to the ARDC.

Lisa Michelle Edgar of San Ramon, Calif., was licensed in Illinois in 1990 and in California in 2005. She was suspended for one year by the California Supreme Court, with a one-year period of probation subject to conditions, for employing a former California attorney who resigned from the bar with disciplinary charges pending. Edgar permitted the attorney to handle client funds over an eight-month period. She also filed a brief on appeal in a client’s immigration matter without complying with mandatory legal authority concerning claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended her for one year, with the suspension stayed in its entirety by a one-year period of probation, retroactive to Nov. 21, 2020, subject to the conditions imposed in California, and continuing until she completes her California probation.

Stephen Thomas Fieweger of Davenport, Iowa, was licensed in Illinois in 1987 and in Iowa in 1989. He was suspended for 30 days by the Supreme Court of Iowa for failing to communicate with a client, collecting an unauthorized fee in a Social Security disability benefits matter, neglecting a client’s case, and mishandling client funds. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended him for 30 days effective Oct. 14.

Stephanie Alexandra Gerstetter of Chicago, licensed in 2018, was suspended for 60 days effective Oct. 14 for misconduct while working as an associate at a law firm. During this time she submitted false billing records totaling just over 86 hours, which resulted in overbilling a client more than $40,000. The law firm refunded the client’s overpayment.

Nathaniel Gordon of Chicago, licensed in 2010 and suspended for one year or until further order of the court, stayed after six months by a six-month period of conditional probation effective Oct. 14. He failed to file a brief in his client’s criminal appeal and did not refund the fees he received for the representation. He also made misrepresentations to a client, a third party, and the ARDC, including fabricating a file-stamp to make it appear that he had filed the brief.

Donald George Groble of Chicago, licensed in 1989, was suspended for two years or until further order of the Court, which is an indefinite suspension. He is required to petition for reinstatement after the fixed period of suspension ends. His misconduct was over the course of five months in which he misappropriated more than $30,000 from a supplemental needs trust established for a disabled client.

Jessica Lynn Jones of Bloomington, licensed in 2014, was suspended for nine months, effective Oct. 14. She failed to act diligently on a client’s domestic relations matter, failed to adequately communicate with the client, and filed a pleading in the case containing false statements. She also engaged in the unauthorized practice of law for approximately two months after having been removed from the roll of attorneys for failure to register, and she made false statements to the ARDC during its investigation.

Mark Vincent Kelly of Alpha, licensed in 1987, was suspended for three months effective Oct. 14. Kelly knowingly misappropriated $2,230 over 10 weeks, funds he had agreed to hold in escrow pursuant to his work as an attorney agent for a title company. No client lost money due to his misconduct.

Carrie Kooi of Crown Point, Ind. was licensed in Indiana in 2009 and in Illinois in 2010. The Indiana Supreme Court suspended her for 90 days, beginning Nov. 23, 2020, with 30 days of that suspension to be actively served and the remainder stayed subject to completion of at least two years of conditional probation. Her discipline arose from her conviction for battery resulting in bodily injury for struggling and twice spitting on a police officer who had taken her to a hospital for a blood draw after stopping her on suspicion of impaired driving. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended her for 90 days, with the suspension stayed after 30 days by a two-year period of probation, retroactive to Nov. 23, 2020, subject to the conditions imposed in Indiana, and continuing until her probation in Indiana is terminated. The suspension is effective Oct.14.

Cynthia Jean Koroll of Rockford was licensed in 2001 and suspended for six months, with the suspension stayed after 60 days in favor of a one-year period of conditional probation, effective Oct. 14. Over a period of approximately three weeks in 2015, she sent dozens of emails, text messages, and other communications to attorneys in Florida with whom she was then engaged in a dispute. Many of those messages were vulgar, profane, abusive, included anti-Semitic remarks, and served no purpose other than to harass or burden their recipients. Also, in 2013, she was disqualified from representing a party in a post decree domestic relations case because her former law partner had been representing the man’s spouse while they were members of the same firm.

Peter J. Kovac of Milwaukee, Wis., was licensed in both Illinois and Wisconsin in 1973. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin, in two disciplinary proceedings, imposed concurrent five-month suspensions for neglecting a client’s matter, failing to return or forward client files in four matters, and failing to respond to demands for information from the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation in five investigations. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended Kovac for five months, effective Oct. 14.

John Paul Paleczny of Chicago, licensed in 2018, was suspended for one year and until he completes the ARDC’s professionalism seminar, effective Oct. 14. As an associate at a Chicago law firm, he falsely billed more than 2,000 hours of time to a pro bono matter that had ended, which resulted in his being terminated. When seeking other employment, he falsely told at least four prospective employers that he had been laid off from his prior firm.

Matthew Clay Piatt of Galveston, Ind., was licensed in Illinois in 2011 and in Indiana in 2015. The Indiana Supreme Court suspended him for 180 days, with the suspension stayed after 90 days by a term of conditional probation of at least two years. His misconduct includes multiple acts of public intoxication and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and his failure to notify the Indiana disciplinary authority of one of his arrests for that conduct. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended him for 180 days, with the suspension stayed after 90 days by a two-year period of probation, retroactive to Jan. 14, 2021, subject to the conditions imposed in Indiana, and continuing until his probation in Indiana is terminated, effective on Oct. 14.

Brian Davis Pondenis of Charleston, S.C., was licensed in 2006 and suspended for one year and until further order of the Court. His suspension is an indefinite suspension which requires him to petition for reinstatement after the fixed period of suspension ends. In electronic messages with a former client’s girlfriend, he revealed information pertaining to his representation of that former client and made improper and abusive statements to the girlfriend. He also made improper and abusive statements to his landlord and the landlord’s wife in electronic messages while representing himself in an eviction matter pertaining to his law office.

Veronica Reyes of Aurora, Colo., was licensed in Illinois in 2009 and in Colorado in 2010. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado suspended her for one year and one day, with the suspension stayed after six months by two years of probation, subject to certain conditions. She mishandled client funds, failed to communicate with clients, and failed to supervise a person working in her law firm. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended her for one year and until further order of the Court, with the suspension stayed after six months by two years of probation, retroactive to March 19, 2019, subject to the conditions imposed in Colorado and continuing until her Colorado probation has ended, effective Oct. 14.

Edward Sergio Rueda of Chicago was licensed in 2011 and suspended from the practice of law for one year, with suspension stayed after 30 days in favor of a two-year period of probation, effective Oct.14. Between March and May 2018, he converted more than $15,000 in four client matters due in part to his failure to keep appropriate trust account records.

Efrain L. Sanchez of Naperville was licensed in Illinois in 2003 and in Missouri in 2010. The Supreme Court of Missouri suspended him indefinitely with no petition for reinstatement to be considered for six months for mishandling client funds and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended him for six months and until he is reinstated to the practice of law in Missouri, effective Oct. 14.

Brian Keith Sides of Champaign was licensed in 2002 and suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the Court. He was found by the ARDC’s Hearing Board to have made false or reckless statements about the integrity and qualifications of a federal bankruptcy judge in nine motions and to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Andrew Martin Stroth of Chicago was licensed in 2001 and suspended for 30 days, effective Oct. 14. He was also ordered to take the ARDC’s professionalism seminar. He failed to pursue a client’s personal injury case, allowing the statute of limitations to expire. He also provided money to the client as a loan against an anticipated settlement and then as a purported settlement. He falsely told his client that he had communicated with an insurance claims adjuster, and he made false statements to the ARDC.

Probation

Barbara Julia Luther of Scottsdale, Ariz., was licensed in Illinois in 1989 and in Arizona in 2004. The Chair of the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee of the Supreme Court of Arizona admonished her and placed her on a two-year period of conditional probation because she did not provide legal services to a client after being paid to conduct a trademark search and review. She also did not communicate with clients about the status of their matters, inform her clients that she was closing her law practice, timely refund advanced fees that she had not earned, or safe keep client funds. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and reprimanded her and placed her on probation for two years, retroactive to Jan. 23, 2020, subject to the conditions imposed by Arizona, and until she successfully completes her Arizona probation.

Reprimanded

John Anthony Ward of Kenosha, Wis., was licensed in Illinois in 1986 and in Wisconsin in 1985. The Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded him for failing to file a written motion seeking a change of venue as directed by his client in a visitation rights case, charging an unreasonable fee, and failing to refund the unearned portion of that fee after his client had terminated his services. In a separate disciplinary matter, a referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a public reprimand against him for failing to promptly refund unearned fees to clients in two separate matters and mishandling client funds. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and censured him.

Alan Kent Wittig of Queen Creek, Ariz., was licensed in Illinois in 1992 and in Arizona in 1997. In two separate matters, Arizona disciplinary authorities disciplined him. In a 2018 matter, he was admonished and placed on probation for two years for failing to notify a third party of his receipt of funds in which the third party had an interest and failing to distribute funds. In a 2019 matter, he was admonished for failing to distribute funds to a person owed the funds and not reasonably communicating with his client. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and censured him, as his Arizona probation had ended.

If you were working with any of these lawyers, especially the ones that are disbarred or suspended, you should immediately seek new representation.