MR. JUSTICE WARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied May 29, 1975.
A division of the Committee on Grievances of the Chicago Bar Association sitting as commissioners of this court under our former Rule 751 recommended that Samuel V. Bossov, the respondent, be discharged from the practice of law. The complaint against the respondent, which had been filed by the Committee on Inquiry of the Chicago Bar Association, had charged him with soliciting personal injury claims, failing to account properly and pay over amounts due clients on settlements reached and with settling cases without having consulted with the clients. When the proceeding was referred to the full Committee on Grievances, that committee recommended that the sanction against the respondent be changed to suspension from practice for a period of five years. The Board of Managers of the Association then considered the record in the proceeding and has recommended to this court that the respondent be suspended for three years.
Bossov contends before us that the findings in the disciplinary proceeding were not sufficiently proved; that the participation of agents of the American Insurance Association in the investigation requires that the complaint against him be dismissed; and also that because of the unreasonable delay in the proceeding the complaint should be dismissed.
In a disciplinary proceeding the charges must be proved by clear and convincing evidence (In re Moore, 8 Ill.2d 373, 379) and findings made in the proceeding are entitled to virtually the same weight as the findings of any initial trier of facts in our judicial system (In re Broverman, 40 Ill.2d 302, 306). The credibility of witnesses is a question for the commissioners who hear and observe the witnesses. In re Lingle, 27 Ill.2d 459, 467.
We cannot accept the contention that the findings of improper conduct made in the disciplinary proceedings were not supported by clear and convincing evidence.
As to the charges that the respondent solicited personal injury claims, the Committee on Grievances stated that "the charges of solicitation and procurement in Counts IV, VII, VIII, IX and X and the evidence produced in connection therewith show a pattern of comprehensive solicitation and procurement of personal injury claims by and on behalf of respondent."
The evidence to support the charges in count IV showed the client had been released from the hospital at about 5 or 5:30 p.m. following an accident which had occurred between 3 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon. That evening someone phoned the client's home and later a man came to her house and left the respondent's professional card. Regarding count VII, the client testified that the respondent approached her and her son when they were leaving the hospital and asked if he could represent them in their claims. She had never heard of the respondent. That evening the respondent and another man appeared at her home and asked to represent her and her son in their claims.
The client concerned in count VIII of the complaint testified that following an automobile accident in which he was involved the investigating police officer suggested that he would be able to get a "newer car" if he employed the respondent. That evening, the client testified, representatives of the respondent called on him and left the respondent's card. He also testified that the respondent referred him to a physician and advised him to tell the physician that he had been injured.
The client referred to in count IX testified that in the evening following an accident in which he was involved an unknown man came to him and recommended the respondent as an attorney. He gave the respondent's professional card to the client, who had never heard of the attorney. When he spoke with the respondent he told him "I feel all right," but the respondent told him, he testified, to go to see the same physician named in the evidence supporting the charge in count VIII and suggested that the client stay away from work to improve his case.
The client concerned in count X testified that a man came to his house the day after an accident in which the client was involved and recommended the respondent's services. He gave the client the respondent's card and had him sign a retainer agreement. When the client visited the respondent at his office, the agreement he had signed was on the respondent's desk.
Prior to their accidents the clients in counts IV, VII, VIII, IX and X did not know the respondent and had never heard of him.
In his testimony at the disciplinary proceedings the respondent stated he did not remember how the clients concerned in these counts came to him and his files did not indicate the circumstances of his being retained by them.
We consider the evidence of solicitation satisfied the requirement that it be clear and convincing. The respondent's argument that there was no evidence that the respondent had employed anyone to solicit injury claims for him or that he had paid anyone to do so does not persuade. We consider that the evidence of solicitation, though mostly circumstantial, was convincing. What ...