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In Re Grossgold



Disciplinary proceeding.


Rehearing denied November 26, 1974.

This is a disciplinary proceeding against the respondent, Nathan Grossgold, under Supreme Court Rule 751 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 110A, par. 751), wherein the sole meritorious issue is the measure of discipline to be imposed against the respondent.

The Committee of Inquiry of the Chicago Bar Association filed a complaint against Grossgold on May 19, 1969, alleging that he was "guilty of conduct which tends to bring the legal profession into disrepute and of conduct unbecoming a member of the legal profession." Hearings were had before the Committee on Grievances of the Chicago Bar Association sitting as Commissioners of this court, after which Division II of the Committee on Grievances recommended that the respondent be suspended for three years. The respondent filed objections thereto, and oral argument was had before the entire Committee on Grievances, which overruled the objections and recommended disbarrment. Again objections were filed and argument had before the Board of Managers of the Chicago Bar Association, which body approved the recommendation of disbarrment.

The proceedings were brought in response to the respondent's conviction in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on nine counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. sec. 1341. His conviction was affirmed on appeal in United States v. Bornstein and Grossgold (7th Cir. 1971), 447 F.2d 742, cert. denied (1971), 404 U.S. 851, 30 L.Ed.2d 91, 92 S.Ct. 88.

In In re Fumo (1972), 52 Ill.2d 307, at page 309, this court stated:

"Prior decisions of this court have established that in disciplinary proceedings, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude is conclusive evidence of an attorney's guilt and is a ground for disbarrment (In re Eaton (1958), 14 Ill.2d 338, 340; In re Teitelbaum (1958), 13 Ill.2d 586, 588); and that violation of section 1341 of Title 18 of the United States Code (18 U.S.C.A. sec. 1341) is a crime involving moral turpitude. In the case of In re Needham (1936), 364 Ill. 65, at page 70, the court said: `Attempting to obtain the money or property of others by fraud or false pretenses, whether through the use of the mails or otherwise, involves moral turpitude.' Also see: In re Eaton (1958), 14 Ill.2d 338. The respondent does not question the validity of these precedents, but contends that the recommendation that he be disbarred is too severe."

The respondent here is in the same position as the respondent in In re Fumo.

In In re Hutul (1973), 54 Ill.2d 209, at pages 214 and 215, this court quoted the following language from In re Crane (1961), 23 Ill.2d 398, 400-401, which, in considering the proper approach to such matters, stated:

"`While the conviction is conclusive evidence of guilt, it does not preclude the consideration of other evidence for the purpose of determining the appropriate disciplinary action. After all, a respondent is being disciplined not because of his conviction but because of his conduct. The actual conduct itself is certainly relevant to a determination of the appropriate discipline to be accorded. Just as every conviction of a crime does not require the same punishment, so all convictions of crimes involving moral turpitude do not require the same discipline. Thus, a consideration of the actual conduct of the respondent is not only proper, but may be indispensable, to an informed appraisal of the appropriate disciplinary action.'"

We must look therefore to all of the circumstances surrounding the respondent's commission of the crime of mail fraud.

The respondent moved to Chicago from New York City in the summer of 1962. He had apparently been successfully engaged in the private practice of law in New York for a number of years, and came to Illinois in order to go into business with Melvin S. Bornstein, his brother-in-law, in starting an insurance company, and for the further reason of living closer to his wife's family. We think it is fair to say that the prospective insurance business was the controlling consideration.

The criminal proceedings in the Federal court reflect that Melvin S. Bornstein and Albert Rosenthal formed the Whitehall Insurance Company in 1961. In May of 1961 they acquired an inactive insurance company and proceeded to have it activated as the Whitehall Mutual Fire and Marine Insurance Company. It was upon the activation of this company that Bornstein persuaded the respondent to come to Illinois. The respondent became claims manager of Whitehall in 1962.

In March, 1963, the respondent's employment with Whitehall ceased, and he operated as a private practitioner with offices in the Whitehall building, and handled subrogation claims for Whitehall against other insurance companies and uninsured motorists on a 25-percentage basis. In December, 1963, Whitehall ceased doing business and its assets and ...

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