The four-year-old disciplinary case against a Chicago area lawyer accused of sexual harassment appears to be nearing an end.
The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) lodged its complaint against Paul M. Weiss in 2008 and late last week, a panel of the commission’s Hearing Board wrapped up its fifth day of hearings in the case.
Although the administrator and Weiss’ legal team gave their closing arguments on Friday, Jim Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel for the ARDC, said Tuesday that one more proof still needs to be entered into evidence before the board can proceed.
Grogan said the remaining proof stems from a witness who was in the hospital and unable to testify at last week’s hearings. Once a statement is taken from that witness, Grogan said the Hearing Board will move forward with its recommendation report.
It usually takes the board between 90 and 120 days from the completion of a hearing to issue a report, but Grogan said there is no set time limit to do so. He also noted that disciplinary hearings don’t typically span a period of five days as they did in Weiss’ case.
Last week’s hearings stem from the complaint the ARDC filed against Weiss in 2008. It alleged that Weiss’ actions toward seven women – five former employees, a neighbor and a woman on the street—brought the legal profession into disrepute.
With claims of assault, battery, phone harassment, public indecency and disorderly conduct, the ARDC complaint focused on Weiss’ alleged misconduct between 2000 and 2010, when he worked at the Chicago law firm of Freed & Weiss.
Weiss, who now practices at Complex Litigation Group in Highland Park, has also worked on some class actions in Madison and St. Clair counties with the Lakin Law Firm, as well as St. Louis attorney Richard Burke and Belleville attorney Kevin Hoerner.
On behalf of the administrator, Wendy Muchman told the Hearing Board last week in her opening statement that Weiss made inappropriate phone calls to some of his female employees and made lewd comments.
Among other allegations, she claimed that Weiss asked one of his former employees what she was wearing, told another he thought of her while having sex with his wife and suggested to another employee that she wear lower-cut shirts.
Muchman also said some of these women claim Weiss inappropriately touched them and exposed himself to them.
Weiss’ attorney, Samuel J. Manella, however, offered a different take on the allegations in his opening statement to the board last week.
He suggested that the sexual harassment allegations lodged against Weiss came from women “seeking financial gain” or former employees with “an axe to grind.”
Manella told the board that “a lot of people don’t like Mr. Weiss,” who he described as a tough, demanding boss with a short-temper, and that his client’s previous disciplinary proceeding made him “a sitting target with a scarlet letter on his chest.”
Weiss was suspended from the practice of law for 30-days more than a decade ago in connection with an allegedly harassing phone call, Manella said, noting that Weiss had a disorder dealing with anonymous phone sex and underwent treatment.
At the end of last week’s hearings, which came to a close Friday evening, Grogan said the administrator asked the Hearing Board to disbar Weiss and Weiss’ attorneys sought dismissal or in the alternative, a low-level form of discipline.
In addition to Muchman, Peter Rotskoff and Sharon Opryszek represented the administrator before the Hearing Board. Weiss was represented by Manella and Stephanie Stewart-Page.
The Hearing Board panel was comprised of Morrison attorney Lon Richey, Naperville attorney Rebecca McDade and non-lawyer William Gabbard.
Depending on what the Hearing Board recommends in its report, Weiss or the administrator could file exceptions to the report, which would send the matter to the ARDC Review Board.
They could also file exceptions to the Review Board report to the Supreme Court, which could decide to consider the case. With the exception of a reprimand, which can be administered by the ARDC Hearing or Review boards, the Supreme Court has the final say over what discipline is imposed.