Peel continues fight for law license; ARDC hearing set June 20

Bethany Krajelis Jun. 14, 2012, 5:00am


Gary Evan Peel, a former Madison County class action attorney who is currently incarcerated in Kentucky, will face an Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission hearing next week on a misconduct complaint stemming from his 2007 criminal convictions.

Peel is expected to participate in the 10 a.m., June 20 hearing in Springfield via telephone given his status as a federal inmate, said James J. Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel of the ARDC. Grogan said the board will likely make a final recommendation for discipline, which could include disbarment, at next week's hearing.

Peel, however, contends in his May 16 response to the ARDC's amended complaint that the hearing board "has called or scheduled this matter for hearing prematurely because the appeal process, involving the criminal charges referenced in the amended complaint, has not been exhausted."

Proceeding with the hearing before his appeals process runs out would result in a violation of his due process rights, he asserts.

In 2007, Peel was convicted of obstruction of justice, bankruptcy fraud and child pornography at the federal court in East St. Louis and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Peel, whose law license was suspended on an interim basis as a result of the case, was accused of blackmailing his ex-wife with nude photographs of her then 16-year-old sister.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010 remanded the case back to the district court, which vacated his conviction for obstructing justice and resentenced him to his original sentence. The federal appeals court affirmed the lower court in February. The ARDC amended its 2007 complaint on April 23 to take note of the court's most recent ruling.

On May 16, Peel, who is representing himself before the ARDC, filed his answer to the amended complaint, claiming the hearing was scheduled too soon because his March 29 motion to vacate, set aside or correct a sentence by a person in federal custody remains pending.

"Respondent's procedural and substantive due process rights, as guaranteed by both the United States and Illinois Constitutions, are violated by the 'Rules Governing the Legal Profession and Judiciary in Illinois' and the disciplinary structure or set of rules of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission that make final and precludes reconsideration for five years a disciplinary order of disbarment where the federal criminal conviction, upon which it is based, is later set aside," he wrote in his May 16 answer.

Peel argues that if he were disbarred from the practice of law now and his convictions were eventually overturned, he would still be excluded from the practice of law for five years under Supreme Court Rule 767, which governs petitions for reinstatement from disbarred attorneys.

This rule, he said in his response to the ARDC amended complaint, does not provide any remedies or exceptions in situations where convictions are later reversed.

"A fair interpretation of this rule would suggest that all direct appeals and all collateral attacks on the criminal conviction be exhausted before any disciplinary hearings proceed to the stage of disbarment recommendations," he contends.

Peel's answer to the amended complaint also includes his request to participate in the June 20 hearing by telephone and a few denials of allegations made by the ARDC in its amended complaint.

The ARDC charges Peel with:

-committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honest, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(3) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct,

- conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4 (a)(4), and

- conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts an legal professional into disrepute in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

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