SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended Thomas Hildebrand from the practice of law for repeated conflicts of interest and dishonesty.
In a March 20 order the Justices adopted a recommendation of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission to suspend Hildebrand "until further order."
The Justices threw out a more lenient recommendation from the commission's review board. That group felt the Court should suspend Hildebrand for a year.
The Court's order puts Hildebrand out of business until a future Supreme Court chooses to bring him back.
The Justices dropped their hammer on Hildebrand because they had disciplined him before but his behavior did not change.
In 2003, the Court suspended Hildebrand for four months and placed him on six months probation after finding conflicts of interest and dishonesty.
In the third month of probation, according to commission administrator Mary Robinson, Hildebrand committed the same types of misconduct.
Robinson accused him of "simultaneous representation of two criminal defendants whose interests were averse."
Hildebrand responded that he had done nothing wrong.
He introduced depositions of Madison County circuit judges James Hackett, Ann Callis, Charles Romani and Daniel Stack, vouching for his honesty.
Last April the hearing board supported the charges and recommended suspension "for a year and until further order."
Suspension until further order amounts to indefinite suspension. Hildebrand would have to petition the Supreme Court for reinstatement.
Board members stressed that they recommended a heavy penalty because Hildebrand engaged in misconduct while on probation.
His discipline advanced to the commission's review board, where he still insisted he had done nothing wrong.
The review board found that he had done wrong but he did not deserve indefinite suspension. In December the review board recommended suspension for a year.
That upset Robinson and her commissioners. In a petition to the Supreme Court, they attacked the review board's softer punishment.
"Respondent's recidivism and failure to reform his behavior show that he should have to petition for reinstatement before regaining the right to practice law," attorney Steven Splitt of Chicago wrote for the commission.
He wrote that, "…when a respondent is unable or unwilling to reform his behavior, a suspension until further order is appropriate to protect the public."
He wrote that Hildebrand failed twice in succession to protect his clients.
He wrote, "This Court should lean on the side of insuring that Respondent's future clients will not have their interests slighted in favor of the interests of other clients."
He wrote that if Hildebrand seeks reinstatement, "all concerned may make an informed judgment at that time as to whether Respondent will comply with his ethical obligations."
The Justices agreed.
Justice Lloyd Karmeier took no part in the decision.