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12/15/88 In Re Oscar O. D'angelo

December 15, 1988

IN RE OSCAR O. D'ANGELO, ATTORNEY, RESPONDENT.


When respondent joined Friedman and Koven, he brought with him as clients the University of Chicago, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital, and Avis Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc. (Avis). Avis had been respondent's client for quite some time, and through Avis, respondent began a practice of reserving rental cars for family friends, Judges of the Cook County circuit court, and public officials of the city of Chicago. The requests for car rentals increased after respondent joined Friedman and Koven, and problems arose with the ad hoc system that was used to reserve automobiles. In an effort to remedy this situation, respondent met with officials from Avis, and received authorization from them to issue Avis Company Travel Orders . An ACTO enabled the recipient to receive a specific automobile and ensured that the particular car chosen would be waiting at a given location at the appointed time. An ACTO also made Friedman and Koven the guarantor of payment for the rental should the recipient fail to pay. Typically, the recipient of the ACTO would not pay for the rental, and Avis would then look to Friedman and Koven for payment. Friedman and Koven would satisfy Avis' bill and then debit respondent's personal firm account. Respondent rarely asked the ACTO recipient to reimburse him for the rentals. Consequently, respondent provided rental cars free of charge to numerous public officials and Judges.

SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

533 N.E.2d 861, 126 Ill. 2d 45, 127 Ill. Dec. 779 1988.IL.1792

Disciplinary proceeding.

Rehearing Denied January 30, 1989

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE RYAN delivered the opinion of the court.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE RYAN

During 1984 and 1985, Richard LeFevour, then presiding Judge of the first municipal district of the circuit court of Cook County, became the subject of a Federal criminal investigation. During that period, respondent Oscar D'Angelo met with the United States Attorney concerning Avis car rentals that he had provided for LeFevour. Subsequently, respondent admitted to having provided Avis car rentals as "gifts" to several Judges, including LeFevour, as well as numerous elected and appointed officials in the city of Chicago. Based on this information, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a 15-count complaint against respondent, charging that he had violated Rules 1 -- 102(a)(4), 1 -- 102(a)(5), 7 -- 110(a), and Canon 9 of the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility (107 Ill. 2d Rules 1 -- 102(a)(4), 1 -- 102(a)(5), 7 -- 110(a), Canon 9) and Supreme Court Rule 771 (107 Ill. 2d R. 771).

A three-member hearing panel found that respondent had engaged in professional misconduct, but disagreed as to the appropriate sanction: one member recommended disbarment, one a suspension, and one a private reprimand. The respondent filed exceptions to the hearing panel's report, but the Review Board unanimously determined that respondent's violations were egregious and recommended a two-year suspension. The Administrator petitioned for leave to file exceptions with this court, asking that respondent be disbarred. Respondent filed his exceptions to both the report and the recommendation of the Review Board.

The facts in this matter are essentially undisputed. The issues before this court are whether respondent's conduct warrants discipline and, if so, what sanction is appropriate.

Respondent was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1959. After spending a number of years with other law offices, he joined the firm of Friedman and Koven as a partner in 1973 or 1974. Due to the recent dissolution of Friedman and Koven, respondent is currently a partner with the firm of Altheimer and Gray.

During his tenure with Friedman and Koven, respondent concentrated his practice primarily in commercial real estate, municipal law, and public financing. In addition, respondent and other members of his family were actively purchasing and developing various real estate properties in the city of Chicago. Respondent was also involved with several community and public interest groups concerned about blight and neighborhood preservation, donating many hours of pro bono work to these organizations. Although respondent rarely served as a trial attorney during his association with Friedman and Koven, other lawyers from the firm regularly represented clients before the circuit court of Cook County.

One of the Judges who received free rental cars was Cook County Circuit Judge Richard LeFevour. At the time he received the rentals, LeFevour was presiding over extensive litigation between the city of Chicago and several automobile rental companies, including Avis. Respondent represented Avis in this case. The city had sued Avis and the others over liability for unpaid parking tickets which had been left upon illegally parked rental cars. The case eventually reached this court (City of Chicago v. Hertz Commercial Leasing Corp. (1978), 71 Ill. 2d 333), which ruled in favor of the city, holding Avis liable for the tickets. After an unsuccessful petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court (Avis Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc. v. City of Chicago (1978), 439 U.S. 929, 58 L. Ed. 2d 322, 99 S. Ct. 315), the case returned to the circuit court of Cook County and was assigned to LeFevour.

Numerous pretrial conferences were held between the parties, some of which took place in LeFevour's chambers. In November 1981, after several unsuccessful attempts to reach a compromise, the city moved to go to trial. Avis countered with a motion to dismiss. LeFevour told both parties that he would be out of town for a few weeks, but would rule on both motions in the very near future. LeFevour, however, had never ruled on either motion when he left the bench in mid-1984.

Between April 1982 and May 1984, LeFevour obtained rental car reservations from respondent on six different occasions. Although at one point respondent questioned LeFevour regarding payment for the rentals, respondent paid for all of the charges, totaling over $2,500. At no time did respondent take any formal steps to collect from LeFevour for these rentals, nor did he inform opposing counsel in the parking ticket litigation that he was providing rentals for LeFevour. Respondent never sought a substitution of Judge.

In addition to LeFevour, respondent also arranged and paid for several car rentals for Cook County Circuit Judge James Murphy. Like LeFevour, Murphy never paid for any of the rentals; instead, respondent took care of the bills, which totaled over $1,000. Murphy presided over matters involving some of respondent's clients, including Avis. Also, Murphy was regularly contacted by Friedman and Koven employees regarding jury summonses that the firm's clients received. A note to respondent from his secretary concerning one of Murphy's rental invoices read as follows:

"Mr. D'Angelo:

Just a reminder -- This bill is for Judge James Murphy -- the Judge who takes care of our numerous jury summonses for Maybrook and California."

In 1984, respondent secured a car reservation for Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Jorzak. Although the Judge testified before the ARDC hearing panel that he was unaware that respondent had paid for the rental, Friedman and Koven records show that the firm had debited respondent's personal account for $458.93 as payment for Judge Jorzak's Avis invoice. Sometime prior to receiving the rental, Judge Jorzak had dismissed a case that the city had brought against respondent concerning a code violation in one of respondent's properties.

Former Judge John Hechinger, who was presiding Judge of the chancery division of the circuit court of Cook County, obtained three Avis rentals through respondent. During the time these rentals were effected, Friedman and Koven attorneys would appear before Judge Hechinger. Although the Judge claims to have repaid respondent, he offered no documentation substantiating any reimbursement.

At least two other Cook County Judges received car rentals from respondent. Former circuit Judge Allen Rosin rented Avis automobiles through respondent, and one rental, in the sum of $418.42, was paid by respondent. Respondent also paid for an Avis rental of approximately $200 for his longtime friend, Circuit Judge Frank Siracusa.

Finally, having regular contact with numerous elected and appointed officials of the city of Chicago (partially because of his real estate holdings, and partially because of the nature of his law practice), respondent, during the ...


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