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In Re Starr

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 1, 1976.

IN RE SAMUEL M. STARR, ATTORNEY, PETITIONER.


Disciplinary proceeding.

MR. JUSTICE CREBS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied November 12, 1976.

The petitioner, Samuel Starr, has filed a petition pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 767, requesting that he be reinstated to the roll of attorneys. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110A, par. 767.

On October 12, 1961, a complaint was filed alleging that the petitioner had converted to his own use funds of four clients totaling $11,500. After hearings on the complaint were conducted by the Chicago Bar Association's Committee on Grievances, the committee filed a report finding that the petitioner's conduct involved moral turpitude and tended to bring the legal profession into disrepute. The committee recommended that the petitioner be disbarred. Before any action was taken by this court, the petitioner moved to have his name stricken from the roll of attorneys, and that motion was granted on January 14, 1964.

On March 5, 1969, the petitioner filed a petition requesting that he be reinstated to the roll of attorneys. The Chicago Bar Association's Committee on Grievances recommended that the petition be denied, and this court so ordered. The petition for reinstatement presently pending before the court was filed on August 7, 1974. After hearings were conducted by a hearing board panel of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, the panel made certain findings and recommended that the petition for reinstatement be granted. The Administrator of the disciplinary system filed exceptions to the report of the panel, and the petitioner filed a reply to the Administrator's exceptions. The findings of the panel, the Administrator's exceptions and the petitioner's reply were submitted to the Review Board of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. After hearing oral arguments, the Review Board made additional findings and filed a report recommending that the petition for reinstatement be denied.

The petitioner contends that the evidence heard by the hearing board panel proves that he has been sufficiently rehabilitated so that his petition for reinstatement should be granted. The Administrator for the disciplinary system opposes the petition and argues that the petitioner is not a fit or proper person to resume the practice of law.

The parties entered into a number of stipulations at the commencement of the hearing. It was stipulated that the petitioner had been convicted on April 11, 1967, in the circuit court of Will County of the offense of impersonating a State official. It was also agreed that 12 civil cases in which a Samuel Starr or a Sam Starr was the defendant were pending in the circuit court of Cook County during the time interval between the allowance of petitioner's motion to strike his name from the roll of attorneys and the filing of the instant petition for reinstatement. Another case in which a Samuel Starr was the plaintiff had been filed in the circuit court of Cook County during that same time period. It was further stipulated that the petitioner had made partial restitution to some of his former clients whose funds he had allegedly converted to his own use. The petitioner paid to Irene Cole the entire $4000 claimed by her. He paid to Cora Cole, who had charged the petitioner with converting $4000 of her money, the sum of $1550. The petitioner also paid to Arthur Secondi the entire $1000 claimed by him.

A number of witnesses, including lawyers and judges, gave favorable testimony for the petitioner. Also, in presenting his case, petitioner identified petitioner's exhibit No. 2 as a list of judgments and liens against him, and that exhibit was admitted into evidence. The exhibit was dated September 21, 1974, and was compiled by the Chicago Title Insurance Company at the petitioner's request. The exhibit revealed that the United States Government had ten liens totaling $152,817.45 against the petitioner. Nine of those liens, totaling $18,518.99, were entered after the petitioner's name had been stricken from the roll of attorneys. It was also revealed that the Department of Revenue of the State of Illinois had acquired three liens against the petitioner, totaling $557.57, during the years 1973 and 1974. Petitioner's exhibit No. 2 further disclosed that an individual had obtained a judgment against the petitioner in 1960 in the amount of $8,097.60. A motion to vacate that judgment had been granted, however, and the record does not apprise us of the current status of that case. The petitioner testified that the largest lien against him, a lien in favor of the United States Government in the amount of $134,298.46, was the result of fraudulent activity on the part of a former business partner. The petitioner maintained that he had never received the income for which taxes should have been paid. The petitioner further testified that he has been making monthly payments to the United States Government and periodic payments to the Illinois Department of Revenue in an attempt to satisfy the other liens against him.

The petitioner also gave testimony concerning his conviction in 1967 for impersonating a State official. The incident which resulted in the criminal charge against the petitioner allegedly took place when the petitioner was working for an attorney as an investigator. The petitioner testified that the attorney for whom he was working hired another attorney to represent the petitioner in court. The petitioner further testified that when he appeared in court the judge asked him how he pleaded to the charge, that his attorney immediately replied that the petitioner pleaded guilty, that the petitioner grabbed his attorney's arm and tried to stop him and that the judge accepted the plea of guilty and imposed a $100 fine and costs before the petitioner could say anything. The petitioner testified that he subsequently filed a petition in the circuit court of Will County to vacate the plea of guilty, but that petition was denied. Later, he filed a petition with this court asking that the court commission or some other committee be directed to conduct an investigation into the matter, but that petition was also denied.

The sole witness called by the Administrator to testify was John Kelly. The Administrator sought to prove through his testimony that the petitioner had violated the American Bar Association's Code of Professional Responsibility concerning solicitation of clients. Kelly testified that he has employed Burton Gould as his attorney on several occasions. Kelly stated that he had sustained an injury to his foot in 1971 and that he was on his way to a clinic for treatment a few weeks after the accident when he met the petitioner. The petitioner allegedly approached Kelly, called him by his name and asked him if something was wrong with his foot. When Kelly replied that he had injured his foot at work, the petitioner allegedly stated that he knew a good lawyer who could handle the case. The petitioner waited for Kelly at the doctor's office and then drove him to the law office of Burton Gould. While at Gould's office, the petitioner allegedly introduced Kelly to Gould's secretary. A statement was taken from Kelly about the accident and Kelly signed a contract giving Gould the right to represent him. Kelly testified that he was certain that the petitioner was the man who took him to Gould's office in 1971. He implied that his identification of the petitioner was based partially upon the fact that he recognized the red sport coat that the petitioner was wearing in the hearing room.

After Kelly testified, the petitioner again gave testimony in his own behalf. He denied Kelly's story concerning the first meeting between the two men. The petitioner stated that he first met Kelly in December 1971 in Gould's office. Petitioner insisted he had never received any payment for recommending a potential client to an attorney. The petitioner also stated that the red sport coat allegedly seen by Kelly in 1971 was purchased at Ricky's Store for Men in February 1973. He further testified that he went to Ricky's Store for Men after hearing Kelly's testimony. The petitioner stated that he spoke to Ricky, that Ricky checked the store's sales records and that Ricky then gave him a receipt. The witness identified petitioner's exhibit No. 9 as the receipt obtained on the day of the hearing at Ricky's Store for Men. That receipt was for a sport jacket purchased at the store on February 12, 1973. The petitioner acknowledged that the receipt had been prepared on the day of the hearing.

Sol Max, the owner of Ricky's Store for Men, was then called to testify on behalf of the petitioner. Max testified that he sold the red sport coat in question to the petitioner. He also testified, however, that he did not recall the date on which the sport coat was sold and that he maintains no business records from which he could determine the date. Max did state that the coat was sold in the fall of 1972 or later. On cross-examination, Max stated that petitioner's exhibit No. 9 had not been written by him and that the receipt appeared to be in his wife's handwriting.

The petitioner testified once again after Max's testimony. On cross-examination, he admitted that he had received the receipt for the sport coat from Mrs. Max, that he had supplied the purchase date, and that ...


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