Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Case against Lawyers May Test Ban on Loans to Clients

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Case against Lawyers May Test Ban on Loans to Clients

Article excerpt

The president of the Madison County Bar Association and three other prominent lawyers should have their licenses suspended for guaranteeing millions in loans to clients with pending personal injury lawsuits, a state commission says.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission named the lawyers in professional misconduct charges. The lawyers are Glenn E. Bradford of East Alton, president of the county bar association; Morris B. Chapman of Granite City, one of the area's most prominent personal-injury lawyers; and two lawyers with Chapman's firm, Terrence V. O'Leary and Robert W. Bosslet Jr.

Mary Robinson, the commission administrator, has recommended that Bradford's license be suspended for six months and the others' for four months.

In a written answer to the charges, the lawyers agreed that they guaranteed or co-signed loans for their clients, but they denied that the practice was misconduct. Their attorney argued that there have been court decisions in Illinois and other states as far back as 1930 that approved such loans as essential to a citizen's right to pursue a lawsuit.

Although most lawyers are reluctant to discuss the issue on the record, Rex Carr of East St. Louis has said that helping secure loans for clients was a longstanding practice that gave people unable to work a way to pay their living expenses while waiting for suits to be resolved. Without the ability to get such money, they could be forced to accept settlements far below the real value of the cases, Carr said.

Carr said he stopped arranging loans after the Supreme Court adopted a rule in 1980 barring the practice. He said he hoped that challenges to the rule would be successful. The charges against the four Madison County lawyers could become a test case challenging the ban.

Proponents of the rule said that guaranteeing or co-signing loans, or advancing cash to clients, gave lawyers an improper financial interest in their clients' cases. They also said the practice gave larger firms with credit lines an advantage in attracting personal-injury cases. …

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