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11/16/87 In Re Jiro Yamaguchi

November 16, 1987



515 N.E.2d 1235, 118 Ill. 2d 417, 113 Ill. Dec. 928 1987.IL.1693

Disciplinary proceeding.


JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the opinion of the court.


This action involves a complaint which the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (Administrator) filed against respondent, Jiro Yamaguchi, alleging that he had (a) engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 1 -- 102(a)(4) of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code) (107 Ill. 2d R. 1 -- 102(a)(4)); (b) engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of Justice in violation of Rule 1 -- 102(a)(5) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 1 -- 102(a)(5)); (c) aided a non-lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Rule 3 -- 101(a) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 3 -- 101(a)); and (d) failed to reveal to a tribunal information in his possession clearly establishing that a person other than his client had perpetrated a fraud upon that tribunal in violation of Rule 7 -- 102(b)(2) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 7 -- 102(b)(2)). The Administrator requested that respondent be disbarred.

The hearing panel found that respondent was careless and indifferent to the prevention of the unauthorized practice of law but that respondent neither harmed nor intended to harm anyone. The hearing panel recommended a reprimand. The Review Board thought a reprimand insufficient and recommended a six-month suspension. Both parties filed exceptions to the Review Board's recommendations.

The record contains much contradictory testimony. The contradictions are largely between respondent's testimony before the hearing panel and his testimony given previously at the trial of Albert Ebert (United States v. Ebert (N.D. Ill. 1981), No. 80 -- CR -- 518), a real estate broker whom respondent is accused of aiding in the unauthorized practice of law. The hearing panel considered both the testimony which respondent and Ebert gave at the disciplinary hearing and the testimony which respondent previously had given in the Ebert trial. We herein summarize the evidence which the hearing panel considered.

Respondent was licensed to practice law over 40 years ago (in 1946) and has since then primarily conducted a general practice, which includes substantial real estate work. For over 25 years he has been a friend of Albert Ebert.

Beginning sometime prior to 1975, Ebert began filing real estate valuation complaints (valuation complaints) before the board of appeals of Cook County (tax board). Pursuant to rule 9 of the tax board, such valuation complaints must be signed by an attorney (or by the property owner himself). In fact, the valuation complaints contain a portion prominently entitled "Attorney's Appearance and Affidavit of Compliance with Rule 9," in which the attorney affirms that he has read the valuation complaint and that he has personal knowledge that the contents thereof are accurate. The testimony indicated that, at least prior to 1975, the tax board did not strictly enforce this rule, and that in fact Ebert signed his own name to many such complaints before then.

In 1975, a tax board employee told Ebert that an attorney's name must be used on any valuation complaint filed with the tax board, unless the property owner represents himself in such matter. Ebert then consulted respondent regarding using respondent's name on valuation complaints filed with the tax board. Respondent acknowledged at the hearing that during that conversation he signed numerous valuation complaints completed by Ebert's staff and numerous blank valuation complaints, which he gave to Ebert. Respondent told the hearing panel that he was not merely permitting Ebert to use his name, but that he took full responsibility for the valuation complaints which he signed and that he tried to attend the hearings on all of those valuation complaints. However, in the Ebert trial respondent acknowledged that he does not know what became of the initial valuation complaints and that he was not asked to attend the hearings on any valuation complaints handled by Ebert's office until 1978. (Prior to that time Ebert appeared at the hearings on many of the valuation complaints himself.)

Respondent acknowledged at the hearing that from 1975 through 1979 vast numbers of valuation complaints which contain his name were signed by Ebert or his secretary and that Ebert used stationery containing respondent's name and Ebert's address. Respondent told the hearing panel that he discovered this practice in 1977 and ordered it stopped. However, the fact that the practice continued until 1979, during which time respondent appeared before the tax board handling what may have been the same complaints which contained his forged signature, casts doubt on respondent's assertion in this respect. Further, during the Ebert trial respondent testified that he would not have objected to Ebert's signing of respondent's name to the complaints.

Evidence was also conflicting as to whether respondent was compensated for either his services or the use of his name. In Ebert, respondent testified that he refused to pay a bill which Ebert sent him for unrelated services, since respondent viewed Ebert's use of respondent's name as fair compensation for Ebert's services. Respondent also stated in the Ebert trial that he had received cash from Ebert for the use of his name. Respondent told the hearing panel that this statement was in error.

The parties disagree as to what facts can be discerned from the above testimony. This disagreement arises in part from a dispute regarding the use of respondent's Ebert testimony. The Administrator sought to use respondent's Ebert testimony as admissions. The Administrator's basis for this position was that he served upon respondent, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 216 (107 Ill. 2d R. 216), a request for admission of facts and genuineness of documents. In the request he asked respondent to admit, inter alia, that the transcript of the ...

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