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In Re Schuyler

OPINION FILED APRIL 16, 1982.

IN RE DANIEL MERRICK SCHUYLER, JR., ATTORNEY, RESPONDENT.


Disciplinary proceeding.

CHIEF JUSTICE RYAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This attorney disciplinary proceeding stems from the transfer of nearly $10,000 in 1970 from Hilda Waalkes, a 77-year-old lady who was living in a retirement home in Evanston, to the respondent, Daniel Merrick Schuyler, Jr., an attorney. The transaction did not come to light until after the death of Hilda Waalkes, who died in 1976.

The money was transferred to the respondent by Hilda following the death of her sister, Flora Waalkes. The transfers were made by four checks totaling $9,937.82 from different sources as follows:

Date: Maker: Amount: Payee: Source of Funds:

5/27/70 United of Omaha 6,133.81 Hilda Waalkes Annuity Policy

11/7/70 Pullman Bank 19.67 Hilda or Certificate of & Trust Co. Flora Waalkes Deposit

11/9/70 Pullman Bank 84.34 Hilda or Certificate of & Trust Co. Flora Waalkes Deposit

11/12/70 Pullman Bank 3,700.00 Hilda or Certificate of & Trust Co. Flora Waalkes Deposit

A complaint was filed by the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission charging the respondent with conduct which was unprofessional and unethical, which constituted undue influence, and which tended to bring the legal profession into disrepute. A panel of the Hearing Board found that the Administrator had proved by clear and convincing evidence that respondent had failed to rebut the presumption of undue influence in accepting gifts from Hilda Waalkes and had failed to advise her to seek independent advice. The panel recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six months.

The Review Board, without announcing its reasons, affirmed the findings and conclusions of the Hearing Board but modified the recommendation and ordered respondent to appear before the Review Board for the delivery of a reprimand pursuant to Commission Rule 10.4. We granted the Administrator's petition for leave to file exceptions to the order of the Review Board. 73 Ill.2d R. 753(e).

Two issues are presented for review. The first is whether the evidence clearly and convincingly establishes that respondent failed to rebut the presumption of undue influence which arose when respondent accepted nearly $10,000 from Hilda Waalkes while he was her attorney. The second issue is whether respondent's conduct warrants the imposition of sanctions.

With regard to the first issue, although respondent suggests that the limited nature of his duties, i.e., filing income tax returns, falls short of an attorney-client relationship, this is clearly not true. The record reflects that, following Flora's death, respondent performed other legal services for Hilda besides preparing her income tax return. The limited nature of his duties with respect to Hilda Waalkes did not lessen respondent's professional responsibility as attorney with respect to her. Moreover, the existence of the attorney-client relationship results in a fiduciary relationship as a matter of law. In re Czachorski (1969), 41 Ill.2d 459; In re Broverman (1968), 40 Ill.2d 302, 307; McFail v. Braden (1960), 19 Ill.2d 108; Gaffney v. Harmon (1950), 405 Ill. 273, 277.

It is a time-honored principle that all transactions occurring between attorney and client, while the relationship continues, must be subject to the closest scrutiny. (Elmore v. Johnson (1892), 143 Ill. 513, 525.) The measure of good faith which an attorney is required to exercise in all his dealings with his client is a much higher standard than is required when the parties deal with each other at arm's length. Gaffney v. Harmon (1950), ...


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