Hildebrand's suspension upheld by ARDC Review Board
A one-year suspension handed to Granite City criminal defense attorney Thomas E. Hildebrand, Jr. for simultaneously representing clients facing related offenses has been upheld by the Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC). "(Hildebrand) has committed serious misconduct which requires a significant period of suspension," the ruling released Jan. 10 states. The commission has disciplined Hildebrand, who was a Madison County associate judge from 1980 to 1985, twice for representing clients with adverse interests and for other misconduct. In 2004, while on probation for his first suspension, Hildebrand allegedly represented criminal defendants Justin Counts and Anne McFarlane despite their conflicts of interest. In 2003, the Supreme Court suspended Hildebrand for 10 months, granting probation after four months if he met certain conditions. "As the actual period of suspension ordered in the previous matter was four months, we consider that a suspension three times as long will be sufficiently meaningful to satisfy the purposes of our disciplinary system and will be fair to Respondent," the Dec. 30, 2005, report states. His case was reviewed by a panel composed of Leonard F. Amari, Kevin M. Forde and Thomas A. Zimmerman, Jr. In April 2005, the ARDC's Hearing Board recommended that the Illinois Supreme Court suspend him from the practice of law for a year. Hildebrand appealed the Hearing Board's recommendation. The commission conducted oral arguments on his appeal Nov. 4. "The Hearing Board found that the Respondent had committed all of the misconduct charged in the complaint," the Review Board concluded. "It considered both the aggravating and mitigating evidence, and particularly the fact that Respondent was on probation for similar misconduct at the time that this misconduct occurred. As a result, the Hearing Board was doubtful that Respondent would be 'willing or able to comply with ethical requirements in the future'." The ARDC ruled that Hildebrand not only had a conflict of interest but also engaged in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. The commission found that, "Respondent's testimony is not believable." The most serious aspect of his misconduct was his prior similar misconduct, according to the ARDC. "The most serious factor in aggravation is the fact that Respondent (Hildebrand) was on probation for similar misconduct at the time that this misconduct occurred," the Review Board stated. "Having been involved in the previous disciplinary matter, Respondent should have had "a heightened awareness" of the need to conform his conduct to the requirements of the rules." The board also wrote, "Prior discipline is a critical factor to consider in determining the appropriate sanction. "In situations of repeated misconduct where respondent's failure to learn from the prior discipline imposed casts doubt on his ability to comply with ethical standards in the future, a suspension until further order of court is frequently imposed." In October 2005, the Record reported that an Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission attorney asked The Record for its report on the case of criminal convict Wiley Yates vs. Hildebrand. In a Sept. 28, 2005, hearing before Madison County Circuit Judge George Moran, Yates implied that Hildebrand represented him and another client with adverse interests. After Moran's Sept. 28 hearing, the Record contacted the commission to see if Hildebrand's discipline related to the Yates case. Staff attorney Peter Rotskoff confirmed that it did not. Rotskoff said he needed to see the Record's report on the hearing.