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Illinois Supreme Court disbars 12, suspends 43, censures 10

Posted on September 26, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the filing of disciplinary orders involving a number of licensed lawyers. The Court has disbarred 12 lawyers, suspended 43, censured 10, remprimanded two and transferred three others to inactive disability status. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.


  • Catherine M. Brame, Bloomington

Ms. Brame was licensed in California in 1987 and in Illinois in 1994. She was disbarred in California for misappropriating over $80,000 in client funds. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred her.

  • Richard William Fischer, St. Louis

Mr. Fischer was licensed in Missouri in 1991 and in Illinois in 1992. He was disbarred in Missouri for accepting a $5,000 retainer and then failing to perform any legal services or return the retainer to the client. He also did not pay his bar enrollment fee, failed to comply with continuing legal education requirements, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law while he was suspended, failed to file state tax returns, and did not cooperate with the Missouri lawyer disciplinary authorities. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred him.

Legal services funding

Posted on September 23, 2011 by James R. Covington

As Congress negotiates the FY 2012 budget during the next few weeks, funding for legal aid may be drastically reduced. This couldn’t come at a worse time for those Americans who need the help that LSC provides. The Census Bureau’s recently released statistics cite that one in five Americans qualify for civil legal assistance at LSC programs. This includes 1.8 Illinois residents. These difficult times makes legal aid more important than ever. We need your help to make sure that the Illinois Congressional delegation understands the importance of LSC funding.

The Legal Services Corporation is the federal government’s principal means of funding legal aid for low-income Americans. LSC funding enables legal aid organizations to provide essential legal assistance to thousands of people in Illinois, including military families and veterans, domestic violence victims, the growing number of people facing foreclosure and many others who depend on legal aid for their safety and independence.

Please take a moment to act. Please call Senators Durbin and Kirk and your Representative and urge them to support funding for LSC at no less than $396 million for FY 2012. You may find your representative here. This amount is roughly proportionate to the overall discretionary spending levels approved in the recent debt-ceiling agreement and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Quick takes from Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Peterson v. Peterson, Jablonski v. Ford Motor Co. and In re Mulroe and criminal cases People v. Masterson and People v. White.


Petersen v. Petersen

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.

This family law case resolved the appropriate means by which to apportion postdissolution decree college expenses where the judgment of dissolution reserved the issue for future consideration.

The Petersens’ 1999 divorce decree provided that the court “expressly reserves the issue of each party’s obligation to contribute to the college…expenses of the parties’ children pursuant to Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Marriage Dissolution Act.”  The decree also ordered the husband (Kevin) to pay monthly child support.

In 2007, the wife (Janet) filed a petition to allocate past and future college expenses for their children.  The circuit court ordered Kevin to pay 75% of the total college expenses for all three children.  The appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that the 2007 petition constituted a modification to the 1999 decree.  It held that the circuit court could not order Kevin to pay for those expenses that predated the filing of the petition.

AOIC Director Cynthia Cobbs appointed to judicial vacancy in Cook County

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Thursday the appointment of Cynthia Y. Cobbs to a judicial vacancy in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Ms. Cobbs resigned her position as Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to accept the judicial appointment. She was the first woman and the first African American to serve as Administrative Director and her tenure as Director is the second longest since the position was established in 1960.

Ms. Cobbs was  named to the Cook County vacancy, at large, created by the retirement earlier this year of Henry R. Simmons. Jr. The appointment is effective Friday, September 23 and terminates December 3, 2012.

Ms. Cobbs was named Director March 1, 2002 and has served under five Chief Justices. Her steady and loyal stewardship has helped guide the Supreme Court and the judicial branch through severe economic times, tight budgets and a technological revolution.

"She has served loyally and with dedication during rough economic times," said Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride. "The Court appreciates and values her long years of service and the numerous  innovations she has helped guide."

In “Eligible” IOLTAs We Trust

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

By Joseph R. Marconi[1]

Effective September 1, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court has amended Rule 1.15 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct respecting the safekeeping of client funds deposited in trust accounts. As professional fiduciaries, attorneys have long been required to keep their clients’ funds separate from their own. Now, the Supreme Court has limited the options for accounts to hold client funds, imposed new record keeping requirements on attorneys, and now requires banks to notify the ARDC when client accounts are overdrawn.

Specifically, Rule 1.15(a) limits the type of accounts in which client funds can be deposited to two kinds. The first is an Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA).  IOLTAs are pooled trust accounts that bear interest or dividends on nominal or short-term client funds—those funds advanced for costs or which belong in part to a client and “presently or potentially” to the lawyer.  The interest or dividends is paid to the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois (LTF) which donates the funds to organizations providing legal services to the poor.[2] An attorney or law firm can establish an IOLTA account by:

ISBA members now receive travel and entertainment discounts

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The TicketsAtWork Corporate Benefit Program offers Illinois State Bar Association members exclusive travel and entertainment discounts. There are over 400 regional and Nationwide offers that are not available to the general public, ranging from Las Vegas shows to Disney tickets. In Illinois, the discounts range from Blue Man Group in Chicago to LegoLand in Schamburg.

Check out the discounts at

"The partner of the first part": civil unions and real estate documents

Posted on September 21, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

Divorce lawyers aren't the only ones still sorting out the civil union law. Not by a long shot.

Take real estate lawyers, for example. In the latest ISBA Real Property newsletter, Dick Bales poses just a few of the questions they face. "How should parties to a civil union be described in deeds and other documents? How should the issue of homestead be addressed in these documents? Can parties to a civil union own their home as tenants by the entirety, and if so, how should they be described in the deed?"

Read his article.

Best Practice: Law firm strategic or long-range plans - Why does a small firm need one?

Posted on September 21, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I have a small firm in Indianapolis. I am the only attorney in the firm and I have three staff members. I have been in practice for 30 years. I have been reading your posts on strategic planning. Why do I need one for a small practice such as mine?

A. A strategic or long range plan serves as the roadmap for your practice. When you go on vacation do you head out without a map, plan or your GPS. Probably not. The same should be true for your practice. A plan defines who you are, where the firm should be heading, and how you get there. It helps focus you as well as your staff and improves productivity, accountability, and alignment with your goals. It identifies what work your firm does (or sometimes more importantly) what it does not do. In essence it outlines what services your are selling, to who, and where. Your plan then lists out the steps you should be taking to move to your desired future.

I have seen solo practitioners time after time reach their 60s and realize that if they had it all to do over again they would do things differently. Often they have completely failed to put in place solid succession strategy and realize no value for their sweat equity when they retire. A plan or roadmap can help direct your efforts over the years.

The important thing is to it keep your plan simple and update it often. Ten pages or less - in outline form. I have seen excellent one page plans. When circumstances change - change it. Review it every month.

Click here for our blog on law firm strategy