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In Re Miller





Rehearing denied January 16, 1956.

This is a disciplinary proceeding instituted before the Committee on Grievances of the Chicago Bar Association as commissioners of this court under Rule 59, against the respondent, Theodore W. Miller, an attorney. The action was commenced on March 4, 1952, by a complaint consisting of 17 counts filed with the commissioners by the Committee on Unauthorized Practice of the Chicago Bar Association, hereinafter called the committee, charging respondent with violations of certain sections of the Canons of Ethics of the legal profession arising out of the operation of a business known as Mida's Trade Mark Services.

On April 22, 1952, respondent filed a motion to make the complaint more definite and certain, in response to which the committee filed a bill of particulars. Respondent filed his answer June 5, and an amendment thereto on December 17, 1952. The committee's proofs commenced on June 19, 1952. Six hearings were had in 1952 and ten in 1953, the last being held on December 17.

The commissioners' report and recommendations found that respondent had violated sections 22, 27, 28, 29, 33, 35 and 47 of the Canons of Ethics of the American, Illinois, and Chicago Bar Associations. The respondent's objections were overruled and the Committee on Grievances and the Board of Managers of the Chicago Bar Association recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for five years. By leave of court the respondent's objections stand as exceptions and the entire record is here for review.

The record shows that respondent's grade and high school education was in Schenectady, New York. At the age of sixteen he joined the Navy and was appointed to the United States Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1922, receiving a commission in the regular Navy. In 1924 he resigned to accept a civil service appointment as assistant examiner in the United States Patent Office. He served in that capacity for about one year and while in Washington commenced the study of law at George Washington University. He then came to Chicago and continued to study law under attorneys, taking an annual examination by the Board of Law Examiners for two years, after which he was admitted to practice in Illinois in 1927. He was with several law firms following admission, and in 1929 respondent started to practice for himself and has been doing so ever since. In 1930 he served about one year as an Assistant State's Attorney of Cook County. Respondent has from time to time maintained offices at various locations in Chicago. In July, 1950, he took a lease at 209 South La Salle Street in Chicago where his offices are presently located.

No other complaint against respondent has ever been made before a bar association or this court. Respondent is registered in the United States Patent Office as competent to carry on proceedings in patent matters. No complaint is shown to have been made against respondent in either the Patent or Trade Mark offices.

The evidence is voluminous. The report of the Committee on Grievances as commissioners calls the record "the heterogeneous mass of evidence." Two hundred and forty-four exhibits were introduced consisting of 621 separate documents. The material facts are substantially as follows:

In 1889 William Mida, as editor of a trade journal, commenced recording trade marks. In the course of years William Mida and his records became a source of information on trade mark matters. When the United States Patent Office began recording trade marks under the 1905 Trade Mark Law, Mida then had a backlog of twenty years of trade mark history. After the 1905 act, Mida kept and maintained a complete copy of the records of the trade mark registration in the patent office, systematized the records for ready reference; and upon request furnished an abstract of the records for established fees or charges.

Upon the death of William Mida in 1915 the business he had established and conducted as Mida's Trade Mark Services descended to his son, Lee W. Mida, who carried on until his death in 1949 when the business passed to Lucia G. Mida, his wife. It appears that the two Midas operated the trade mark services as a business in the city of Chicago from 1905 to 1949; and did so without any interference from the United States Patent Office or complaint from any bar association.

Both William Mida and Lee W. Mida, as laymen, were recognized by the patent office as competent persons to register trade marks. However, Mrs. Mida was not so recognized. She endeavored to conduct the business herself, and on March 1, 1950, Mrs. Mida engaged respondent to finish and conclude trade mark cases originally undertaken by Mida's Trade Mark Services then pending in the Trade Mark Office at Washington, D.C., and in the several States.

Respondent's initial association with Mida's Trade Mark Services began March 1, 1950. On that date an agreement was entered into between the respondent and Lucia G. Mida. The contract recited that Lucia G. Mida was the sole owner of Mida's Trade Mark Services; that she was not an attorney and did not desire to continue operation of the business; that there were a number of pending applications before the United States Patent Office and the several States for trade mark registrations which were filed by Mida's Trade Mark Services; that Lucia G. Mida was "desirous of completing the work originally undertaken by the said Mida's Trade Mark Services and for which it is obligated, and also wishes to have Miller [respondent] complete the work necessary to process said applications provided the applicants consent that he do so;" and that "Miller is an attorney who is qualified to complete said applications and is willing to do so provided the applicants consent that he perform such services for them."

The agreement also sets forth that Lucia G. Mida agreed to deliver to respondent all the files, correspondence and other information related to such applications that were in possession of Mida's Trade Mark Service. Mida's customers had deposited with it moneys to pay costs and filing and registration fees. The contract between Lucia G. Mida and respondent recited that Mrs. Mida had paid to respondent the sum of $9,236.46, out of which respondent agreed to pay the sum of $4,673.41, which latter sum represented all unpaid filing and registration fees to the United States Patent Office.

Lists of the said pending applications which respondent had agreed to complete were attached to the contract as an exhibit. The contract also provided that in the event it was not possible for respondent to complete any of said applications "because the client does not consent to have Miller perform such services" any unpaid registration fees in such cases should be refunded to the applicant out of funds paid to respondent. Thereafter Lucia G. Mida contacted the several applicants and ...

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