Illinois Supreme Court disbars 6, suspends 11 in latest disciplinary filing
The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on March 20, 2017, during the March Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.
- Joel Mitchell Bell, Chicago
Mr. Bell, who was licensed in 1975, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated over $364,000 in client funds and lied to two of his clients about the status of their respective settlement proceeds. He was suspended on an interim basis on December 2, 2016.
- Michael David Gerhardt, Forest Park
Mr. Gerhardt, who was licensed in 2003, was disbarred. He neglected two civil cases, resulting in two judgments totaling approximately $500,000 being entered against his clients in one case and $20,000 in settlement funds not being distributed to another client. He also failed to return an unearned fee and made misrepresentations to his client regarding the status of that client’s case. He failed to appear at his own disciplinary hearing.
- Jerald Allen Hochsztein, St. Louis, Missouri
Mr. Hochsztein was licensed in Missouri in 1986 and in Illinois in 1987. The Supreme Court of Missouri disbarred him for failing to competently and diligently handle a client’s wrongful termination suit and misrepresenting the status of that matter to his client; for failing to diligently handle another client’s foreclosure prosecution; for failing to respond to lawful demands for information from Missouri disciplinary authorities regarding those matters and another grievance; and for practicing law after being disbarred by default (by an order that was subsequently vacated), in connection with the initial charges filed against him. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred him in Illinois.
- Robert Jutzi Howell, Raleigh, North Carolina
Mr. Howell, who was licensed in 2008, was disbarred on consent. He pled guilty to one felony count of pointing and presenting a firearm at a person, one misdemeanor count of unlawful carrying of a pistol, and one misdemeanor count of possession of cocaine in Charleston County, South Carolina. He was sentenced to a one-year period of incarceration in the State Department of Corrections, with credit for time served, and a five-year term of probation.
- Robert T. McAllister, Denver, Colorado
Mr. McAllister, who was licensed in 1974, was disbarred on consent. He was convicted in a federal court in Colorado of conspiracy to obtain unlawful wire transfers of more than $1 million, conspiracy to use embezzled funds as a down payment in a real estate transaction, and bankruptcy fraud for making false representations in his own bankruptcy petitions.
- Teresa Searcy Woods, Naperville
Ms. Woods, who was licensed in 1992, was disbarred. She misappropriated approximately $27,500 entrusted to her in connection with four different real estate transactions and one personal injury matter. She engaged in further misconduct by entering into a purported repayment agreement with two of her clients in order to delay repayment of earnest money that she had converted. Finally, she signed a client’s name on two settlement checks without that client’s knowledge or authorization.
- Alfonso S. Bascos, Chicago
Mr. Bascos, who was licensed in 1976, was suspended for one year and until further order of the Court. He failed to competently represent an elderly client who suffered from dementia when he prepared a power of attorney giving the client’s caregiver control over the client’s funds and making the caretaker and her family beneficiaries of the client’s will. Mr. Bascos did not discuss matters with the client before preparing the documents and the caretaker subsequently misappropriated $536,000 from the client. Mr. Bascos also engaged in a conflict of interest by representing the caretaker when she was being investigated for elder abuse.
- David Kyle Cooper, Chicago
Mr. Cooper, who was licensed in 2002, was suspended for ninety days and until he completes the ARDC Professionalism Seminar. He engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by representing two clients after he was removed from the Master Roll of Attorneys for failing to register. He also made false statements during the ARDC investigation of his conduct. The suspension is effective on April 10, 2017.
- Michael Leslie Cummings, Highland Park
Mr. Cummings, who was licensed in 1995, was suspended for six months. After failing to prepare and record a mechanic’s lien on behalf of a client, he fabricated a purported lien and delivered to it the client as if it were genuine and had been timely recorded. As a result, the client lost its right to foreclose on any lien that would have been properly recorded. The suspension is effective on April 10, 2017.
- Dewey Richard Haime, Loves Park
Mr. Haime, who was licensed in 2001, was suspended for sixty days and required to complete the ARDC Professionalism Seminar. He agreed to represent a client in a delinquent child support matter, accepted the client’s payment of a $250 retainer, and then took no further action on the matter. He made false statements to the client about the progress of the case and did not comply with the client’s requests for information. The suspension is effective on April 10, 2017.
- G. Ronald Kesinger, Jacksonville
Mr. Kesinger, who was licensed in 1973, was suspended for one year and until further order of the Court. He impermissibly borrowed $26,000 from a client while he was representing her in a probate matter, purchased another client’s home at a foreclosure sale while he was representing that client in the foreclosure case, and falsely represented his financial condition in a loan transaction with a bank.
- Helen A. Lesczynski, Chicago
Ms. Lesczynski, who was licensed in 2004, was suspended for one year. She neglected two civil matters, two criminal matters, one immigration matter and two traffic related matters. She also fabricated information regarding the pending matters in an attempt to conceal her neglect. The suspension is effective on April 10, 2017.
- Charles A. Lukis, Clarksburg, Maryland
Mr. Lukis, who was licensed in 2006, was suspended for thirty days. He neglected two different client matters and made misrepresentations to his client about the status of one of those matters. The suspension is effective on April 10, 2017.
- Vincent J. O’Brien, Chicago
Mr. O’Brien, who was licensed in 1987, was suspended for two years and until further order of the Court and until he makes certain restitution. He neglected five different personal injury cases and failed to communicate with clients. He also failed to pursue a client’s custody case and, after termination, he did not return the client’s file, provide a billing statement or refund the unearned portion of the fee.
- James Gordon Walker, Bloomington
Mr. Walker, who was licensed in 1968, was suspended for two years and until further order of the Court. He made accusations about the integrity of three appellate court judges with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the accusations. He made the accusations in six separate pleadings over a period of more than two years. He was suspended on an interim basis on April 11, 2016.
- Magdalene Rose Wilson, Lakemoor
Ms. Wilson, who was licensed in 2013, was suspended for two years and until further order of the Court, with the suspension stayed after ninety days and until she completes the payment of certain restitution followed by a two-year period of conditional probation. She neglected eight different client matters. In five of those matters, she commingled and converted funds paid to her for security retainers and filing fees. The suspension is effective on April 10, 2017.
- David Raymond Wroblewski, Phoenix, Arizona
Mr. Wroblewski was licensed in Illinois in 1998 and in Arizona in 1999. He was suspended in four years in Arizona and placed on probation for two years during that suspension. He neglected a number of different bankruptcy matters, failed to adequately communicate with clients, did not promptly refund unearned fees and unexpended filing fees, and failed to meet all of his responsibilities in managing his lawyer and non-lawyer staff. Further, he was formally admonished for failing to undertake reasonable efforts to ensure that an attorney appointed by his firm to handle a criminal matter performed all the requested services for his firm’s client. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended him for four years and until he is reinstated in Arizona. The suspension is effective on April 10, 2017.
- Kenneth A. Grnacek, Custer Park
Mr. Grnacek, who was licensed in 1974, was censured. While a patron at the Korner Keg & Kitchen in Braidwood, he struck another patron in the face with his hand. Later, he was found guilty of two counts of aggravated battery. He was sentenced to serve a 12-month probation term, was ordered not to consume alcohol, and had to perform 75 hours of community service.
- Matthew R. Hartley, Phoenix, Arizona
Mr. Hartley was licensed in Arizona in 1992 and in Illinois in 1998. He was censured and placed on probation for one year in Arizona for commingling and converting more than $6,000 of client funds, failing to properly train and supervise employees, and failing to maintain complete client trust account records. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline by censuring him and ordering that he be placed on probation for one year, with the period of probation considered successfully served.
- Steven Michael Landis, Tinley Park
Mr. Landis, who was licensed in 1996, was censured. He failed to refund an unearned portion of a $10,000 fee in a criminal matter after he had been discharged by the client. In addition, during the ARDC investigation into his conduct, he initially failed to cooperate.