Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Illinois Disciplinary Review Board report which recommended a 6 month suspension (with no automatic reinstatement) of a lawyer who failed to perform legal services for which he was retained, failed to return unearned fees, failed to communicate with clients and failed to reduce fee agreements to writing, and making “indefensibly outrageous” statements about lawyers and a court deputy in litigation cases. The case is In the Matter of: David Alan Novoselsky, Commission No. 2011PR00043, SC No. 2069881 (April 10, 2015). The link to the Board recommendation is here: https://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11701
The Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission upheld a Hearing Board’s findings that the lawyer failed to perform legal services for which he was retained, failed to return unearned fees, failed to communicate with clients, and failed to reduce fee agreements to writing. According to the Board’s report, the lawyer also called a female lawyer derogatory names, including “b—-,’ ‘‘asshole,” “slut,” “c—,” “pervert,” “whore” and “child molester”. He called another lawyer an “idiot” and a “cokehead,” and he also called a deputy a “dumbbell” after she asked him to lower his voice.
“(The lawyer) denied making some of the statements and could not remember if he had made other statements. However, he admitted making several of the statements. He often claimed he was provoked by undocumented personal attacks against him or claimed that the parties were “ribbing” each other, although witnesses confirmed (a witness’s) testimony that she did not provoke, react, or respond to these statements.” “His attacks on opposing counsel and a court deputy displayed an utter disregard for the integrity of the courts…(w)hile he may still believe that he was provoked, the record indicates otherwise. We find his conduct to be indefensibly outrageous.”
“Because we find (the lawyer’s) actions to be egregious and because respondent lacks any remorse or understanding of his misconduct, we recommend to the court that he be suspended for six months and until further order of the court.” The hearing board had recommended a six-month suspension with automatic reinstatement. The review board also recommended that the lawyer be ordered to return $30,000 in restitution of unearned fees.
The Board noted in mitigation that the lawyer had practiced law for 40 years without being disciplined, he had performed pro bono work, and had been active in bar associations. There was no mention of any other mitigation, such as substance abuse or other personal issues.
Bottom line: This case involved an Illinois lawyer who apparently went off the deep end and made outrageous derogatory statements in highly contested litigation cases. He also apparently kept unearned fees, failed to perform legal services, failed to obtain written fee agreements, and failed to communicate with clients. The Illinois Supreme Court will review the recommendation and it will be interesting to see if the Court agrees or increases the recommended sanction. Stay tuned…
Be careful out there (and of course don’t do this).
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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