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Slow Day for the Illinois Grievance Committee: Lawyer Reprimanded Over $261 Expense

Let's face it. There are plenty of bad lawyers in our profession: lawyers who embezzle $150,000 from probate clients' trust funds; lawyers who misappropriate tens of thousands of dollars of client funds over a five year period; lawyers who accept money from clients and abandon their cases. So with all of this unethical, even criminal conduct in the profession (and those are just the matters that we know about), the Illinois Disciplinary Commission chooses to  go after a lawyer with an unblemished 16-year record who allegedly falsified his reason for upgrading from an economy to a first-class flight, and even offered to eat the extra $260 cost.  (H/T - Legal Profession Blog.)

This stipulation between the lawyer and the Administrator of Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission sets out the facts of this heinous ethical breach.   The Respondent, a fourth-year associate at an Illinois firm, purchased an economy ticket to travel from Chicago to California for a deposition. Because the attorney was flying out at night and the deposition was scheduled for the following morning, he upgraded his ticket to first class and paid an extra $260.02.  Upon return to the office (via an economy flight), the Respondent submitted the charge for the upgrade.  However, he told the accounting department that the charge was necessary because his flight had been canceled and he was forced to purchase a new ticket at the higher fee.   The Respondent offered to pay for the added fare out of pocket if  the firm could not collect reimbursement for it. 

Apparently, someone took the time to track down Respondent's story and discovered that his flight had not been canceled, and he lied about the reason for the upgrade.  And indeed, that someone had enough time on his or her hands to actually file a disciplinary action with the Illinois Bar, which actually took the complaint seriously enough to issue a reprimand.

Now, we all know that lawyers shouldn't lie.  But not all lies demand the heavy handed intervention of the bar.  This case could have been just as easily handled internally by the firm than through a public bar complaint. 

Most disciplinary commissions have limited resources, and time spent on one matter necessarily detracts from or delays resolution of another.  Somewhere in Illinois, there's probably at least one (if not more) really  bad lawyer embezzling money or negligently handling cases who's still in practice because the bar hasn't gotten around to addressing the complaints filed against him.  Because making an example of an associate with a 16-year pristine record who had the gall to seek a piddling $261 reimbursement for upgrading his flight (which quite frankly the firm should have picked up anyway, seeing that this fellow was travelling on a weekend) was more important. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 1, 2008 at 03:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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