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02/20/87 In Re Robert E. Mcauliffe

February 20, 1987



506 N.E.2d 1300, 116 Ill. 2d 254, 107 Ill. Dec. 245 1987.IL.191

Disciplinary proceeding.


JUSTICE SIMON delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE WARD took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. JUSTICE MORAN, Dissenting.


The Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission charged the respondent with (1) conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation, (2) illegal conduct involving moral turpitude, (3) conduct prejudicial to the administration of Justice, and (4) making false statements to the ARDC with the intent to obstruct an inquiry. The charges stem from one central event -- a settlement of a dispute over legal fees the respondent claimed were owing to him in which the respondent received a sum of money in exchange for a release and respondent's recantation of his prior sworn testimony.

The Hearing Board determined that there was "no doubt that the alleged intent on the part of the respondent to recant his sworn statement delivered to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission did in fact occur." That board, however, reached no Conclusion as to whether the respondent's conduct constituted fraud, dishonesty, deceit or involved moral turpitude. It concluded only that, at "the very minimum, this [the misconduct] represents an unprofessional disregard for the disciplinary proceedings of the respondent's profession." Extraordinary mitigating circumstances surrounding the respondent's misconduct led the Board to recommend a reprimand instead of a more severe sanction. The Review Board affirmed the Hearing Board's findings of fact and Conclusions of law but determined that suspension for six months was appropriate. The respondent filed exceptions in this court to the Review Board's recommendations.

There is essentially no dispute over the facts. The disagreement between the ARDC and the respondent, Robert E. McAuliffe, a former Judge of the circuit court of Cook County and for the past 7 years a Chicago attorney, is over the sanction to be imposed. The respondent's position is that, in view of the mitigating circumstances relied upon by the Hearing Board, discipline in excess of a reprimand would be inappropriate. The ARDC, however, urges us to suspend the respondent for three years. The record is replete, as the Hearing Board recognized, with tragic occurrences in the life of the respondent.

Judge McAuliffe was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1953. From 1959 to the end of 1963 he served as a Judge of the village court of Maywood, and for the next 15 years as a Judge of the circuit court of Cook County. In 1964 while the respondent was vacationing with his family in the west, his two young daughters were raped and murdered by a marauder who invaded their hotel room. For years this incident haunted the respondent and it eventually contributed to the severe depression from which he suffered.

The respondent's voluntary resignation from the bench in April 1979 was prompted by personal and financial hardship. He was heavily in debt due to imprudent business investments. In addition, he was supporting two households -- one consisting of his first wife and daughter; the other of a son who was born in 1974 and his son's mother, Charlotte, whom the respondent married after divorcing his first wife.

Upon leaving the bench, the respondent entered into a professional relationship with an attorney, Jason Mitan, who specialized in personal injury work. The respondent handled cases referred to Mr. Mitan and was paid $2,000 per week for the first eight or nine weeks of this arrangement so that he could meet his financial obligations. After this initial period, the respondent received a percentage of fees collected on the cases referred and was reimbursed for all overhead expenses. This relationship lasted only eight months; in December 1979 the respondent moved out of Mitan's office when he received notice that Mitan was being disbarred. Shortly thereafter, he entered into a similar arrangement with another attorney (attorney), who had represented Mr. Mitan in his disciplinary proceeding.

Around this time, the respondent's son and Charlotte moved to California. During the period the respondent was associated with the attorney, he commuted to California on a regular basis to see them. In February of 1981, while in California, the respondent received a letter from the attorney stating that he was terminating their business relationship and would not pay the respondent fees which the respondent was claiming were owed to him.

In April 1981, in an apparent effort to persuade the attorney to pay the amount he was claiming, the respondent filed a complaint with the ARDC accusing the attorney of using, without consent, waiver-of-attorney-lien forms that the respondent had signed in blank before leaving on a trip to California. He also provided the ARDC with a sworn statement supporting these charges. The respondent repeated these charges and added others during a citation deposition, in a civil case in which a party was seeking to locate Mr. Mitan's assets. Throughout this period, the respondent was distraught over his financial situation and the attorney's alleged failure to live up to their agreement. On the advice of his physician, he contacted a psychologist whose diagnosis was that the respondent was suffering from a neurotic depression.

While visiting California in May 1981, the respondent's mental condition deteriorated. He began fearing that his son would be violently murdered as his daughters had been 17 years before. Obsessed by this fantasy, the respondent visited his son's school daily to assure himself that the child was still alive. His psychological problems became so severe that he stopped bathing and dressing properly. By late May 1981, Charlotte could no longer tolerate his ...

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