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In Re Jafree



Disciplinary proceeding.


Rehearing denied January 28, 1983.

The Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a three-count complaint before the Commission charging respondent, Syed Jafree, with professional misconduct. The complaint alleged that respondent instituted numerous defamatory and frivolous lawsuits, appeals and administrative actions. The Hearing Board recommended that he be disbarred, and the Review Board adopted that recommendation.

Three issues are presented for review: (1) whether this court has jurisdiction; (2) whether the Administrator proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that respondent instituted frivolous and defamatory litigation; (3) what sanction, if any, is appropriate under the circumstances of this case.

Respondent was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1972, and shortly thereafter was appointed an assistant Attorney General for this State. His employment was terminated in 1973, at which time he filed a civil rights action against the former Attorney General, William Scott. The suit was eventually dismissed for want of prosecution. Subsequently, respondent filed a number of appeals and other lawsuits in Federal courts>, naming as defendants William Scott, certain judges, lawyers, lay people, and a former President of the United States. Essentially, respondent charged defendants with employment discrimination and other civil rights violations. He sued both in his own name and on behalf of others. The suits were generally dismissed for failure to state a cause of action, failure to file pleadings within the time allowed by court, or neglecting to pay court fees or to post bond.

In 1977, this court granted the Administrator's motion for an order requiring respondent to submit to a mental examination. He refused and was suspended from the practice of law until such time as he complied with the order. Respondent eventually submitted to the examination and was permitted to resume his legal practice.

In 1979, the Commission began investigating respondent's litigation practices, and his alleged abusive and defamatory criticisms of the judiciary. A complaint was voted by the Inquiry Board in early June of 1980. On June 11, 1980, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an order in Jafree v. Scott (No. 79-1231), affirming the district court's dismissal of respondent's civil rights complaint. In so holding, the court noted respondent's history of vexatious litigation, and concluded its order with the following statement:

"In light of [respondent's] repeated failure to conform his practice in this court to an acceptable standard, and out of our concern for the administration of justice and the public interest, we are submitting the history of Jafree's litigation in [this] court to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission for further action."

Count II of the Administrator's complaint was based upon the above order.

Following the institution of the complaint, respondent filed several suits in the Federal district court, seeking to enjoin the present disciplinary proceeding. In one of these suits, he named over 50 defendants, including members of this court, members of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Federal district court judges. He also sued unnamed parties under the fictitious name "Judgeso N. Thetake." Respondent's defamatory and conclusional complaint alleged an ongoing conspiracy between the defendants to violate his constitutional rights.

Respondent also petitioned this court to dismiss the complaint and requested four days of oral argument relative to this motion. In the event we refused to dismiss the proceedings, respondent requested that a public hearing on the merits be conducted for six or seven months. He did not, however, respond to the complaint or appear at the proceedings before the Hearing Board. Consequently, and pursuant to the Administrator's motion, the allegations of the complaint were deemed admitted.

We first address the issue of whether this court has jurisdiction over the cause. Respondent raises a number of arguments, many of which are vague, irrelevant and conclusional, in support of his allegation that this court lacks jurisdiction. He initially contends that he was never served with process. The evidence indicates otherwise. An affidavit attesting to proof of service was filed with the Commission. John W. Stephenson, the affiant and an investigator for the Commission, stated that he served respondent with the complaint during the afternoon of January 27, 1981. He indicated that he approached respondent on a corner of Dearborn Street in Chicago and showed to him the first page of the complaint. Respondent stated that he would not accept any documents and proceeded to walk away. Stephenson followed, and attempted to convince him to accept the papers, but he refused. Eventually, Stephenson told him that he should consider himself served, and placed the documents on respondent's shoulder. The papers fell to the sidewalk and Stephenson then departed. He stated that he was unsure whether respondent retrieved the documents.

The affidavit of service should be considered prima facie evidence that the process was properly served. It should not be set aside unless the return has been impeached by clear and satisfactory evidence. (Cf. Marnik v. Cusack (1925), 317 Ill. 362, 364 (same principle with regard to a sheriff's return); see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 13.2(1).) The evidence indicating a lack of service is respondent's own assertion, and his client's affidavit stating that she was with him on January 27, 1981, and that no one served him with process. (The affidavit was included in respondent's brief.) It is unclear whether this ...

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