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12/06/88 In Re Melvin A. Heller Et Al.

December 6, 1988

IN RE MELVIN A. HELLER ET AL., ATTORNEYS, RESPONDENTS.


Before we begin our Discussion of the issues presented by respondents, we note that respondents have admitted virtually all of the allegations contained in the Administrator's complaint. There is no dispute or question that respondents did arrange for or guarantee loans for Judge Holzer on the five dates noted above. Although there is some question as to the final total dollar amount of the loans (i.e., whether the last two guarantees for $10,000 were for the same loan or were for additional advances) there is no question that respondents did assist Holzer by various means to obtain a substantial sum of money. Also, the record clearly indicates that between 1971 and 1979 respondents' firm appeared of record before Judge Holzer in approximately 75 pending cases in the circuit court of Cook County. At no time during the pendency of the cases were adverse parties or their counsel advised of the relationship between Holzer and respondents.

SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

533 N.E.2d 824, 126 Ill. 2d 94, 127 Ill. Dec. 742 1988.IL.1751

Disciplinary proceeding.

Rehearing Denied January 30, 1989

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the court.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE CLARK

This matter is before the court upon exceptions of respondents, Melvin A. Heller and Jerrold L. Morris, to the reports of the Hearing Board and the Review Board recommending disbarment.

On September 5, 1986, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed with the Hearing Board a six-count complaint against respondents for their conduct in procuring for, assisting and/or facilitating Judge Reginald Holzer in obtaining at various times approximately $40,000. By reason of the conduct outlined in each of the counts, the complaint charges respondents with lending or giving a thing of value to a judicial officer in violation of Rule 7 -- 110(a) of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code) (107 Ill. 2d R. 7 -- 110(a)); circumventing a disciplinary rule through the actions of another in violation of Rule 1 -- 102(a)(2) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 1 -- 102(a)(2)); engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in violation of Rule 1 -- 102(a)(4) of the Code (107 Ill. 2d R. 1 -- 102(a)(4)); engaging in actions 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)); engaging in actions that tend to bring the court and the legal profession into disrepute in violation of Supreme Court Rule 771 (107 Ill. 2d R. 771); and failing to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in violation of Canon 9 of the Code (107 Ill. 2d Canon 9).

Counts I through V of the Administrator's complaint, described in more detail below, involved five separate incidents of loans to or guarantees of loans for Judge Holzer from or by both Heller and Morris. Count VI involved an alleged payment from Heller to Holzer for assistance in securing admission into law school for Heller's son.

On February 24, 1987, a panel of the Hearing Board (panel) issued a report and recommendation in which it found by a "preponderance of the evidence" that both respondents were guilty of the misconduct charged in counts I through V of the Administrator's complaint but that the charges against Heller in count VI were not proven. The panel recommended disbarment. Respondents filed exceptions to the report with the Review Board.

On July 15, 1987, the Review Board filed an order remanding the case to the panel for such further proceedings as were deemed appropriate in order to review the evidence based upon a standard of clear and convincing evidence pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(c)(6) (107 Ill. 2d R. 753(c)(6)). The panel was further instructed to make individual findings, Conclusions and recommendations as to each respondent.

On September 30, 1987, the panel, finding that further hearings were unwarranted, filed a revised report in which it found that the Administrator had proven by clear and convincing evidence that the respondents were guilty of the misconduct charged. The panel recommended disbarment. Respondents filed exceptions with the Review Board based on the revised report.

Respondents filed a brief and the case was orally argued before the Review Board. On January 13, 1988, the Review Board issued its report and recommendation in which it found that the panel had complied with the order of the remand. It also concurred with the findings of fact and ...


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