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12/06/88 In Re Mark E. Jones

December 6, 1988

IN RE MARK E. JONES, JR., ATTORNEY, RESPONDENT.


SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

532 N.E.2d 239, 125 Ill. 2d 371, 126 Ill. Dec. 554 1988.IL.1760

Disciplinary proceeding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MILLER

On August 8, 1986, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a one-count complaint charging the respondent, Mark E. Jones, Jr., with professional misconduct in connection with a financial transaction involving Judge Reginald Holzer. The complaint alleged that, by obtaining a $15,000 bank loan at Holzer's request and then delivering the loan proceeds to Holzer, respondent violated Rule 7 -- 110(a) (107 Ill. 2d R. 7 -- 110(a) (giving or lending a thing of value to a Judge)); Rule 1 -- 102(a)(5) (107 Ill. 2d R. 1 -- 102(a)(5) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of Justice)); Canon 9 (107 Ill. 2d Canon 9 (failing to avoid the appearance of impropriety)); and Rule 771 (107 Ill. 2d R. 771 (engaging in actions that tend to bring the courts and legal profession into disrepute)).

The Hearing Board concluded that respondent's conduct had violated Rule 7 -- 110(a) and recommended that he be reprimanded for this violation. The Hearing Board further concluded, however, that because neither the respondent nor any member of his law firm had ever had a case pending before Holzer, nor had respondent, or any of his associates, ever received a court appointment from Holzer, the charges based on Rule 1 -- 102(a)(5), Canon 9, and Rule 771 should be dismissed. Both the respondent and the Administrator filed exceptions with the Review Board. Six members of the Review Board concurred in the findings of fact and Conclusions of law of the Hearing Board, but recommended that the respondent be censured for his violation of Rule 7 -- 110(a). One member of the Review Board agreed with the Hearing Board's recommendation that respondent be reprimanded, and one member did not participate. Both the Administrator and respondent then filed exceptions in this court pursuant to Rule 753(e)(5) (107 Ill. 2d R. 753(e)(5)).

The facts of this case are basically undisputed. The respondent was licensed to practice law in 1950. Between 1963 and 1980, he served as a Judge in the circuit court of Cook County. Respondent first became acquainted with Holzer either before the respondent became a Judge or while he was serving on the bench. In either case, he had known Holzer for many years prior to the transaction in question. Respondent and Holzer enjoyed a casual, friendly relationship. The two men would occasionally see one another at social functions and judicial meetings. Additionally, respondent and Holzer lived in the same neighborhood and frequently walked to work together when they were both Judges. Neither of the two men, however, had ever been to the other's home.

After retiring from the bench in 1980, respondent entered private practice, concentrating in civil matters, such as real estate, probate, contract, and corporate law. The respondent's firm occasionally had cases pending in the chancery division of the circuit court of Cook County during the time Holzer was assigned to that division. The Administrator, however, has not shown how frequently this occurred, nor does the record provide that information. The respondent represented clients in court (although not necessarily in the chancery division) approximately two to three times a year. Neither respondent nor any member of his law firm had ever represented a client before Holzer. However, on one occasion prior to the loan in 1984, respondent did appear before Holzer while representing himself in a purely personal matter. At that time, Holzer ruled against the respondent. Neither respondent nor any of his associates ever received an appointment from Holzer, although in 1983 and 1984 Holzer introduced two prospective clients to respondent. One of these individuals ultimately retained respondent, and respondent received approximately $1,200 in legal fees for his services.

In May 1984, Holzer telephoned respondent and asked if they could meet. Respondent agreed and Holzer went to respondent's office. Holzer explained that he was in desperate need of money and asked respondent to lend him $15,000. Respondent did not inquire why Holzer needed the money, and Holzer did not offer an explanation. Holzer did tell respondent that he was selling his condominium and that he would be able to repay the loan from the sales proceeds in 60 to 90 days. When respondent suggested that Holzer obtain a loan from a bank, Holzer informed respondent that he was borrowed "up to the hilt." Respondent told Holzer that he did not have $15,000 to lend him, but that he would try to borrow that amount from a bank and transfer the money to Holzer.

Respondent then borrowed $15,000 from Continental Illinois Bank and deposited the loan proceeds in his personal checking account. On May 9, 1984, respondent wrote a check for $15,000 payable to Holzer and then delivered the check to Holzer at the Judge's chambers. Respondent did not obtain a note or collateral as a condition for the loan. It was understood, however, that Holzer would pay the interest charged by the bank. Approximately six months later, in November 1984, respondent received a statement from Continental Bank regarding the accrued interest on the loan. Respondent then met with Holzer and showed him the bank statement. Holzer agreed to take care of it and, a few days later, gave respondent a check for $1,028.43 made payable to Continental Bank. Respondent then forwarded the check to the bank. This one interest payment was the only payment made by Holzer on the loan. Respondent ultimately satisfied the loan obligation himself and sued Holzer for $15,000 in August 1985 (Jones v. Holzer (Cook Co. Cir. Ct.), No. 85 -- M1 -- 100979). A judgment against Holzer was entered on July 23, 1986, but respondent has been unable to collect on the judgment.

Respondent testified that he agreed to obtain a loan for Holzer because he regarded the Judge as a friend and because Holzer appeared to be in urgent need of money. Respondent further explained that his motive in acceding to Holzer's request was "to help out a fellow human being but more especially a fellow Judge and to help him avoid some catastrophe." According to respondent, by assisting Holzer, he hoped to forestall some financial disaster which would reflect badly, not only on Holzer, but on the judiciary in general. Respondent denied any intent to curry favor with Holzer by securing funds for the Judge.

The issues presented in this court are: (1) whether respondent's undisputed activities constituted professional misconduct; and, if so, (2) whether discipline should be imposed. While the Administrator charged respondent with violating Rule 1 -- 102(a)(5), Canon 9 and Rule 771, the principal allegation, and the one on which these subsidiary charges depend, is that respondent violated Rule 7 -- 110(a). (See In re Corboy (1988), 124 Ill. 2d 29, 37.) Rule 7 -- 110(a) provides:

"A lawyer shall not give or lend any thing of value to a Judge, official, or employee of a tribunal, except that a lawyer may make a contribution to the campaign fund of a ...


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