SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
522 N.E.2d 1229, 122 Ill. 2d 402, 119 Ill. Dec. 370 1988.IL.592
Rehearing Denied May 31, 1988.
JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the opinion of the court.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE CUNNINGHAM
On January 27, 1986, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a three-count complaint against respondent, Leo I. Fox, alleging that he had (a) neglected legal matters entrusted to him in violation of Rule 6 -- 101(a)(3) of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code) (107 Ill. 2d R. 6 -- 101(a)(3)); (b) failed to seek the lawful objective of his clients in violation of Rule 7 -- 101(a)(1) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 7 -- 101(a)(1)); (c) failed to carry out contracts of employment in violation of Rule 7 -- 101(a)(2) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 7 -- 101(a)(2)); and (d) prejudiced or damaged his client during the course of professional relationships in violation of Rule 7 -- 101(a)(3) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 7 -- 101(a)(3)). The asserted misconduct involved respondent's alleged failure to properly prosecute criminal appeals for three clients who had paid him retainers, Derrick Dandridge, Carlos Moore, and Lorenzo Wiley.
Respondent was admitted to practice law in May 1961, and is currently 60 years old. For the past 20 years he has been a sole practitioner, and approximately 95% of his practice has been criminal law. He has not previously been disciplined for professional misconduct.
On September 16, 1986, a hearing was held. The Hearing Board found respondent guilty on all counts and recommended that he be censured. On December 23, 1986, the Administrator filed before the Review Board exceptions to the discipline recommended by the Hearing Board, and requested that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for three years.
On July 28, 1987, the Review Board filed its report and recommendations. The Review Board concurred with the findings of fact and Conclusions of law of the Hearing Board. However, a majority of the Review Board recommended that respondent be suspended for a period of 18 months. Two members of the Review Board recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year.
This matter is before this court upon the exceptions filed by respondent to the discipline recommended by the Review Board.
Count I, the allegations of which we herein summarize, involves respondent's work on behalf of Derrick Dandridge. Dandridge was convicted on or about December 28, 1979, of two counts of armed robbery and was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 to 20 years. On or about December 1, 1980, respondent was retained to prosecute his appeal and was paid $3,000 as his fee. On December 19, 1980, the appellate court allowed respondent's motion to file his appearance for Dandridge. On April 9, 1981, Dandridge's appeal was dismissed for want of prosecution. On January 5, 1983, Dandridge was released from prison. At no time between the dismissal of the appeal and the defendant's release from prison did respondent take any action to reinstate his client's appeal.
Respondent candidly admits the allegations regarding count I. However, he urges us to consider additional facts in order to view his conduct in its proper context. In this regard he submits that during the Dandridge appeal he was suffering from certain physical problems, primarily a heart condition that had recently become aggravated. He also notes that, at about the same time, he was going through a dissolution of a marriage of 20 years' duration and involving three children. Respondent also points out that his practice was then in the midst of upheaval in that an association he had with other attorneys was breaking up. Respondent claims he simply lost the Dandridge file at the time he was moving the location of his practice. He submits that the file was inadvertently closed, and that therefore he did not complete his obligation on it. Respondent points out that as soon as he learned that his client, Dandridge, was about to be released from prison and the appeal had been dismissed, he offered to reimburse the Dandridge family for all the legal fees which the family had paid to him. Respondent also notes the undisputed fact that he voluntarily returned $3,100 to the Dandridge family, which is the amount that his records reflected he had collected, and which is $100 more than the Dandridge family claimed that they had paid respondent.
We next summarize the allegations of count II, which concern the manner in which respondent handled the criminal appeal of Carlos Moore. Respondent had represented Moore at his murder trial. Moore had been convicted and sentenced to 80 years in the penitentiary. Respondent agreed to prosecute Moore's appeal for $1,500, and Moore paid him a $300 retainer. On June 2, 1980, respondent filed a notice of appeal on behalf of Moore, and the clerk of the appellate court docketed the matter. Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 606(g) (107 Ill. 2d R. 606(g)), respondent was to file a docketing statement in the case by June 16, 1980. Respondent failed to ...