from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15-cv-01387 -
John Z. Lee, Judge.
Ripple, Manion, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
John Doe seeks lawful permanent residence in the United
States under the Employment-Based Immigration: Fifth
Preference category ("EB-5"). This visa program
requires applicants to demonstrate that they have invested or
are currently investing capital in a "new commercial
enterprise" within the United States. 8 U.S.C. §
1153(b)(5)(A). To that end, Doe invested $500, 000 in Elgin
Assisted Living EB-5 Fund, LLC. That entity then loaned funds
to Elgin Memory Care, LLC, so it could build and operate a
memory care facility in Elgin, Illinois.
this investment, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services ("USCIS") denied Doe lawful permanent
resident status. The USCIS expressed particular concern that
the Elgin memory care center had not been built since it was
first proposed in 2011. Doe objected to the decision and
filed a lawsuit against the USCIS alleging that the denial of
his application violated the Administrative Procedure Act. 5
U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. The district court
entered summary judgment in the government's favor and
represented in this appeal by the Kameli Law Group, LLC. The
law firm has three attorneys. John R. Floss is one of two
associates and also Doe's counsel of record. Taher Kameli
is the firm's principal. Taher Kameli Law Group, Our
Attorneys, http://www.kamelilawgroup.com/ our-attorneys/
(last visited Feb. 14, 2018). Illinois records list Kameli as
the sole manager of the LLC. Office of the Ill. Sec'y of
briefing in this appeal was underway, the Securities and
Exchange Commission brought a civil action against Kameli for
violating the Securities and Exchange Acts. Complaint,
SEC v. Kameli, No. 17-cv-04686 (N.D. Ill. June 22,
2017). The agency filed an amended complaint late last month.
First Amended Complaint, Kameli, No. 17-cv-04686
(N.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 2018). The SEC accuses Kameli of
defrauding at least 226 immigrant investors who participated
in the EB-5 immigrant investor program. Id.
¶¶ 1-2. More specifically, the SEC alleges that
Kameli solicited over $88 million to invest in a number of
new commercial enterprises, only to squander and
misappropriate some of those funds. Id. ¶¶
is significant overlap between the SEC's claims against
Kameli and the facts in this case. Kameli is alleged to have
misappropriated funds that were invested in the Elgin memory
care center. Id. ¶¶ 159-167, 169. This
supposedly left the project in debt and unfinished.
Id. ¶¶ 195-96, 200-01. The SEC alleges
that Kameli's actions have "jeopardized
investors' chances at obtaining permanent U.S. residency
through the EB-5 visa program." Id. ¶ 13.
Doe is one of those investors. This raises a serious question
of conflict of interest.
we ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs
regarding the possible conflicts of interest the Kameli Law
Group may have in representing Doe. The briefs are now in. We
conclude that disqualification is appropriate.
our duty to "maintain public confidence in the legal
profession and assist in protecting the integrity of the
judicial proceeding." Freeman v. Chi. Musical
Instrument Co., 689 F.2d 715, 721 (7th Cir. 1982).
Disqualifying conflicted counsel is "a drastic
measure" toward this end, but we must take this step
when necessary to "protect the attorney-client
relationship." Id. The facts of this case force
Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit
representation if "there is a significant risk that the
representation of one or more clients will be materially
limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another
client, a former client or a third person or by a personal
interest of the lawyer." ILL. R. Prof'l Conduct R.
1.7(a)(2). Client consent can sometimes resolve such a
conflict, but it is not a panacea. See Owen v.
Wangerin, 985 F.2d 312, 317 (7th Cir. 1993). The lawyer
must always "reasonably believe that [he] will be able
to provide competent and diligent representation to each
affected client." ILL. R. Prof'l Conduct R.
1.7(b)(1). Put slightly differently, representation is
prohibited notwithstanding informed client consent if the
court "cannot reasonably conclude that the lawyer will
be able to provide competent and diligent
representation." Id. cmt. .
case presents at least two concurrent conflicts of interest,
neither of which can be waived by informed client
consent. No lawyer could reasonably continue the
representation under these circumstances.
a conflict of interest arises when an attorney has an
incentive to reject lines of inquiry or argument that might
help his client's case. See, e.g., United
States v. Algee, 309 F.3d 1011, 1014 (7th Cir. 2002)
(finding conflict when "ethical constraints would
prohibit [counsel] from cross-examining [witnesses] in any
meaningful way"); People v. Taylor, 930 N.E.2d
959, 971-72 (Ill. 2010) ("[T]he defendant must point to
some specific defect in his counsel's strategy tactics,
or decision making attributable to the conflict.")
(internal quotation marks omitted). Kameli has precisely this
motivation. He and Doe might share an interest in proving
that the Elgin investment was not a sham, but that is where
their alliance begins and ends. Kameli would not advise Doe
to litigate his case any other way, such as by alleging fraud
and seeking reconsideration of the USCIS's decision. It
therefore strains credulity to think that Kameli would be
diligent in Doe's case. Indeed, a diligent lawyer must
take "whatever lawful and ethical measures are
required to vindicate a client's cause or endeavor."
ILL. R. Prof'l Conduct R. 1.3 cmt. 1 (emphasis added).
Kameli's self-interest inhibits him from carrying out
a lawyer owes his client a duty of "undivided
fidelity." Pelham v. Griesheimer, 440 N.E.2d
96, 100 (Ill. 1982). Having a duty to someone else obviously
"interfere[s] with the undivided loyalty [that] the
attorney owes his client" and ultimately
"detract[s] from achieving the most advantageous
position for his client." Id. Kameli's
divided obligations to his various investors and clients put
him in precisely this position. The SEC alleges that Kameli
"has remained in total control" of the relevant
EB-5 projects he created. First Amended Complaint, ¶ 12,
Kameli, No. 17-cv-04686. Many of these projects
evidently "lack money to complete construction, "
id. ¶ 196, meaning Kameli must decide which
projects to shore up with the limited funds he has. His duty
of loyalty to Doe would require him to complete the Elgin
project because that would best position him to obtain lawful
permanent residence. His obligations to his ...