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06/20/88 In Re Walter M. Ketchum

June 20, 1988

IN RE WALTER M. KETCHUM, ATTORNEY, RESPONDENT.


Before LeFevour became a Judge, respondent made loans to him from time to time. These loans were always repaid by LeFevour. After LeFevour became a Judge, respondent continued to loan him money. These loans followed the same pattern: LeFevour would ask for a loan, whereupon respondent would write LeFevour a check from his business account. The loans were always interest-free, were never evidenced by a note, and times for repayment were never discussed. Respondent recalls neither the circumstances surrounding these loans nor the reasons LeFevour needed the loans. None of these loans, with the possible exception of the first one, were repaid by LeFevour.

SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

528 N.E.2d 689, 124 Ill. 2d 50, 124 Ill. Dec. 1 1988.IL.962

Disciplinary proceeding.

Rehearing Denied October 3, 1988

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE STAMOS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

PER CURIAM DECISION

Richard LeFevour, then presiding Judge of the first municipal district of the circuit court of Cook County, was indicted in 1984 on charges of mail fraud, tax fraud, and racketeering. During the course of his trial, the government introduced evidence of certain financial transactions between LeFevour and Walter M. Ketchum, the respondent in this case. LeFevour was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. In the wake of LeFevour's conviction, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a two-count complaint charging the respondent with violations of Rules 1 -- 102(a)(2), 1 -- 102(a)(5), and 7 -- 110(a) and Canon 9 of the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility (107 Ill. 2d Rules 1 -- 102(a)(2), (a)(5), 7 -- 110(a), 9 -- 101 et seq.). After a hearing on the matter, in 1986 the hearing panel concluded that respondent had violated Rule 7 -- 110(a) and recommended that respondent be censured. Both respondent and the Administrator appealed to the Review Board, and in 1987 the Review Board agreed with the hearing panel that respondent had violated Rule 7 -- 110(a), but recommended a one-year suspension. On June 24, 1987, this court granted respondent leave to file briefs and present oral argument. The issue in this court is whether respondent's conduct in making loans to and soliciting loans for LeFevour or his mother violated Rule 7 -- 110(a) and, if so, what sanctions are appropriate. Rule 7 -- 110(a) provides in pertinent part that an attorney "shall not give or lend anything of value to a Judge."

Respondent was a long-time friend and neighbor of LeFevour, whose residence was across the alley from respondent's. Their families were extremely friendly and their children grew up together, went to school together, and played together. Before LeFevour became a Judge, he sometimes referred personal injury cases to respondent, and respondent sometimes referred criminal cases to LeFevour while LeFevour was still in private practice. LeFevour continued to refer personal injury cases to respondent after LeFevour became a Judge in the traffic court in 1968, but the Administrator did not charge wrongdoing on this account. In testimony before the hearing panel, respondent described LeFevour as a good source of business. LeFevour was named presiding Judge of the first municipal district in 1981. During the period in question in this case, a large number of respondent's personal injury cases were pending in that district -- at times as many as 50% of the cases he had on file.

The first loan, for either $1,000 or $2,000 (respondent cannot recall which), was made sometime after LeFevour became a Judge but before February 1978. Although he cannot recall the circumstances, he claims that LeFevour repaid the loan. Between February 1978 and September 1982, respondent made five additional loans to LeFevour, totalling $5,300. Four of these loans, totaling $4,300, were made after LeFevour became the presiding Judge of the first municipal district. None of these loans were repaid.

Respondent claims that four of the five loans made between 1978 and 1981 were advances on account of a tort action in which the respondent represented LeFevour's wife, his two sons, and two other individuals not related to LeFevour. A review of the respondent's office records indicates that these payments to LeFevour, contrary to respondent's assertion, were not advances. Where monies were loaned by the respondent to his clients, the loans were recorded in cost ledger sheets kept by respondent's office in the regular course of business. We note, however, that the Administrator brought no charges against the respondent with respect to such loans. For the purpose of this proceeding, it is significant that there were no entries of any advances or loans on the cost ledger sheets which referred to LeFevour or the tort action the respondent was handling for the LeFevour family.

Respondent made two more loans to LeFevour in December 1981. On December 21, 1981, LeFevour called respondent and told him that his mother, Evelyn, with whom the respondent was acquainted, was hospitalized. Because of a dispute with his mother's insurance carrier, LeFevour needed to raise $10,000 to pay the hospital bill so that she could be released to spend the Christmas holiday at home and yet be readmitted to the hospital shortly thereafter if she required further hospitalization.

Although respondent had sufficient funds to loan LeFevour the amount requested, he responded to LeFevour that he was not able to make the loan. Instead he volunteered to contact other attorneys, using Judge LeFevour's name to request that they contribute to a fund to pay the hospital bill. LeFevour consented to the respondent's suggestion. Although the respondent did not tell LeFevour the names of specific individuals he would solicit, he told LeFevour he would call attorneys.

That same day the respondent spoke to six Chicago attorneys and asked each to contribute $1,000 to the hospital bill. One attorney refused outright, and later another attorney informed the respondent that he would not contribute because his wife objected. The other four attorneys each delivered checks to respondent in the amount of $1,000 payable to Richard LeFevour, the way in which the respondent told them he was making his own check payable. The respondent then wrote his own check payable to Richard LeFevour in the amount of ...


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