We get a lot of calls from people looking to sue their lawyer. We are happy to bring on a legal malpractice case if it’s a good one. In most of the calls though we hear about bad customer service, lack of effort or bad results on a case. Those things are unfortunate, but don’t usually rise to the standard needed to successfully sue your attorney in Illinois.
Many of the people who call us really just don’t want their lawyer to “get away with it.” If they’ve done something unethical or illegal, the proper place to go is the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. They aren’t going to suspend a lawyer for not returning a couple of phone calls, but they might if they skip court, abandon a case or steal from you.
These excerpts are from the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and highlight reasons some lawyers have recently either lost their license or been temporarily suspended:
The high court disbarred four attorneys. They are:
— John L. Allen of Bedford, N.H., who also is licensed in New Hampshire, on a reciprocal basis. Allen abandoned his law practice and misappropriated about $690,000 he had agreed to hold in trust. He also transferred about $943,000 from his client trust accounts to his operating account and commingled $350,000 of operating account funds with client funds. M.R. 30741.
— Michael Lee Henneberry of Walnut, Ill., by consent. Henneberry made sexually explicit comments to a client he was representing as a court-appointed defense counsel, touched her without her permission and masturbated in front of her. He also pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of providing alcohol to a minor. M.R. 30711.
— Radford Reuben Raines III of O’Fallon, Mo., who also is licensed in Missouri, on a reciprocal basis. Raines failed to pay fees to a deceased lawyer’s trust for work the lawyer had done on cases before Raines took them over. M.R. 30708.
— Nikola Duric of Park Ridge. Duric misappropriated more than $400,000 in funds belonging to clients and third parties, neglected client matters and failed to return unearned fees. He was suspended on an interim basis in Oct. 2020. M.R. 30734.
The Supreme Court suspended 10 other attorneys this month. They are:
— Dwight A. White of Chicago, two years and until further court order, stayed after one year for three years of conditional probation. White converted nearly $14,000 belonging to two clients, failed to return unearned fees, neglected three clients’ cases and failed to put two contingent fee agreements into writing. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30721.
— Marie A. Durbin of St. Louis, who also is licensed in Missouri, one year and until she is reinstated to Missouri’s bar. The Missouri Supreme Court suspended Durbin indefinitely and barred her from seeking reinstatement for at least a year. Durbin missed the deadline for filing a workers’ compensation claim on behalf of a client, lied to the client about the matter and failed to respond to disciplinary authorities’ complaint about her conduct. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30694.
— Howard Randolph Baker Jr. of Decatur, one year and until further court order, with the suspension entirely stayed by two years of conditional probation. After failing to meet discovery deadlines in a client’s dissolution-of-marriage case, Baker blamed the failure on his own mental health problems and falsely claimed he was in therapy. M.R. 30704.
— Jeffrey P. White of Auburn, Maine, who also is licensed in Maine, nine months and a reprimand, on a reciprocal basis. White neglected two client matters and hid from a bankruptcy court the attorney fees a client had paid him. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30656.
— Shelby Kanarish of Scottsdale, Ariz., who also is licensed in Arizona, six months and until he is reinstated to the Arizona bar, on a reciprocal basis. Kanarish was suspended in Arizona for six months and one day, followed by probation. After settling a personal injury case, Kanarish made false statements about his purported fees to disciplinary officials and to a doctor seeking to be paid for services he had provided Kanarish’s clients. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30764.
— Jennifer Prager Sodaro of Scottsdale, Ariz., who also is licensed in Arizona, six months followed by two years of conditional probation, on a reciprocal basis. Sodaro contacted a represented party and sent a letter to a judge presiding over a case in which she was involved accusing the opposing party’s lawyer of lying. She also disbursed the proceeds of a home sale without permission. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30600.
— William Briskin Kohn of Highland Park, six months, with the suspension stayed after 90 days for one year of conditional probation. Kohn did not respond by the deadline to summary judgment motions filed by the opposing party in a business dispute and did not file a brief in the appeal that followed. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30730.
— Joseph C. Farwell of Schaumburg, 90 days. While in the process of shutting down his law firm, Farwell converted more than $8,000 he was holding for a client and did not return the money until the client complained to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30743.
— Eric James Dale of Clinton, Iowa, who also is licensed in Iowa, 60 days and a public reprimand, on a reciprocal basis. Dale neglected client matters, put a client’s signature on a document without her permission and entered a plea of not guilty for that client without consulting her. The suspension begins on June 8. M.R. 30702.
— John Thomas Sheets of Havana, Ill., 30 days. Sheets engaged in the unauthorized practice of law for six weeks after being struck from the roll of attorneys in 2019 for failing to complete registration requirements and for 23 weeks after being struck from the roll of attorneys in 2020 for failing to complete Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements. The suspension begins June 8. M.R. 30709.
As you can see, lawyers do get disciplined. I find it a bit shocking that someone who has taken client funds might be able to get their license back some day. It is good to know that lawyers who blow off their cases can be suspended. That is probably the only way to protect the public from hiring these people. You also see a lot of lawyers being disciplined for lying. It is a big no-no and has shaped our attitude of being very direct and honest whenever we are asked questions.