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In Re Schechet

OPINION FILED JANUARY 23, 1985.

IN RE HYMAN SCHECHET, PETITIONER.


Disciplinary proceeding.

CHIEF JUSTICE CLARK DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied March 29, 1985.

The petitioner, Hyman Schechet, was admitted to the bar of Illinois in 1950. He was disbarred on consent, May 21, 1974. In an attempt to be reinstated, Schechet has filed three petitions for reinstatement with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (the Commission) of this court: December 1978, May 1981, and June 1983. The petitioner withdrew his original petition for reinstatement. His 1981 petition was denied, and the 1983 petition is at issue in this appeal. A hearing was held before a panel of the Hearing Board of the Commission on this petition. The Hearing Board unanimously recommended to this court that the petition be denied. The Review Board unanimously affirmed that recommendation. The petitioner filed exceptions to the aforementioned recommendation. Under our Rule 767 (87 Ill.2d R. 767), Schechet's petition is now before this court.

While this court has recognized the need to be uniform in the sanctions imposed in attorney disciplinary cases, we are also cognizant of the fact that each case presents a unique factual situation and must therefore be carefully evaluated based on its own merits. (See In re Goldstein (1984), 103 Ill.2d 123.) Therefore, we will begin our analysis by reviewing the detailed facts of this case.

From 1966 to 1970, the petitioner and others conspired with a claims manager of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company (Hartford) in a scheme to submit fictitious insurance claims to Hartford. The claims manager caused the claims to be paid and then split the proceeds with the petitioner and the others. In 1972, with regard to this scheme, the petitioner pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges. He received a suspended sentence and was placed on 18 months' probation "on condition that if called to testify in any capacity, the defendant [would] cooperate and speak the truth."

In 1972, Hartford filed a civil suit against the petitioner and the others to recover the losses sustained as a result of the scheme, which allegedly totaled $208,478. Hartford claimed that the petitioner was responsible for $117,873 of the total loss. Pursuant to Hartford's offer to compromise its claim, the petitioner executed an affidavit in which he admitted receiving $77,383 from Hartford on some 47 fictitious claims. Judgment in that amount was entered against the petitioner on June 18, 1973.

Because of his involvement in this scheme, Schechet was disbarred on consent. Following his disbarrment, the petitioner entered into an unsuccessful taxicab venture which lasted until March of 1975. Immediately after leaving the taxicab business, he commenced employment with Fidelity Electronics.

Although the petitioner made $23,000 in 1976 and $27,000 in 1977 at Fidelity Electronics, he made no payments to Hartford on the $77,383 judgment. He believed that the judgment was an insurmountable barrier and that there was no practical way for him to generate funds to pay the judgment. Accordingly, on November 1, 1977, the petitioner filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy. In the accompanying schedule he listed "Hartford Insurance Company, Hartford Plaza, Chicago, Illinois" as a creditor for $80,000. However, notice of the bankruptcy either did not reach Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company (due to the petitioner's mistake in the company's name) or, if it did, it was not acted upon by Hartford. As a result, the petitioner received a full discharge in bankruptcy on September 21, 1977.

In 1978, Hartford attempted to collect on its judgment, and the petitioner thereupon filed a motion to enjoin any such collection. While the motion was pending, the petitioner filed his original petition for reinstatement with the Commission. Hartford's attorney sent the petitioner's attorney a letter notifying the petitioner that Hartford would vigorously oppose a petition for reinstatement because of the petitioner's failure to make any restitution. The petitioner thereupon withdrew his original petition for reinstatement.

As a result of negotiations, the petitioner and Hartford reached a settlement. Hartford agreed to accept only $12,000 in full satisfaction of the judgment. Payments were to be $100 per month over a 10-year period with no interest. At the time of this settlement, the petitioner was earning $35,000 per year at Fidelity Electronics, had a wife, two minor children, and one adult child at home, and had no other large indebtedness.

In 1979, Fidelity Electronics and the petitioner moved to Miami, Florida. Due to the "oppressive market conditions" the petitioner's employment was terminated on December 31, 1981. From January of 1982 until July of 1983, the petitioner was distributing products for Watham Manufacturing. However, in the later part of 1983, the petitioner surrendered this right of distribution to the Milton Bradley Company, and in consideration he received the sum of $50,000.

During the period of time that the petitioner was still employed by Fidelity Electronics, he again petitioned for reinstatement. This, his second petition, was denied. One month after the Commission's Hearing Board filed its report, in May of 1982, the petitioner advised Aetna Casualty and Surety Company (which now owns the debt) by letter that he was unemployed and unable to meet his obligations. However, approximately one month prior to advising Aetna of his inability to pay, the petitioner deposited the sum of $19,000 with the First Variable Rate Fund. The petitioner stated he was "creating an investment" for himself with those funds.

Within one month after advising Aetna of his inability to pay, the petitioner again sent a check to First Variable in the amount of $4,000. This too was "an investment." Three months after advising Aetna, the petitioner issued a check to First Nationwide Savings in the amount of $3,000. Notwithstanding having sufficient funds to meet his obligation with Aetna, the petitioner elected not to make any restitution payments until October 29, 1982.

The petitioner only made six $100 payments in the 13 months prior to filing the present petition for reinstatement. At the time that his petition was before the Hearing Board, Schechet stated he was unemployed but had an offer of employment as sales manager for a builder. Schechet also testified that he had made a total of 27 of 46 scheduled payments. In addition, the petitioner testified that he could not afford to meet his family obligations and his restitution ...


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