A hearing board panel of the Illinois Attorney and Registration Commission (ARDC) is recommending that Belleville attorney Jesse L. Trautmann be disbarred following a default proceeding on Oct. 30.
Disciplinary charges were filed against Trautmann in May in a three-count complaint stemming from his representation of clients in three separate matters.
The ARDC accused him of showing a lack of diligence in all three matters, making false representations in two and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in one.
“This Panel finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that Respondent engaged in the acts alleged and committed the misconduct charged in the Complaint…” according to the ARDC report and recommendation filed Nov. 4.
The panel found that Trautmann “failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client (Counts I, II, III); failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the client's matter (Counts I, II, III); failed to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation (Counts I, II, III); knowingly made a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal (Counts I, II); practiced law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulations of the legal profession in that jurisdiction (Count I); engaged in conduct involving in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation (Counts I, II); and engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice (Counts I, II, III).
Trautmann was not present at the hearing and no counsel appeared on his behalf.
The panel consisted of Granite City attorney Leo H. Konzen, Belleville attorney Kurt E. Reitz and non-lawyer Carolyn Berning of Springfield.
Attorney Gary S. Rapaport appeared on behalf of the ARDC Administrator.
Background: In the matter of Trautmann
The first count of ARDC’s complaint dealt with Trautmann’s representation of Sheri Nantkes.
In October 2008, she had lens implant surgery performed on both of her eyes and began to have difficulty seeing shortly after.
Nantkes consulted with an attorney about filing a lawsuit in 2010. That attorney, Roy C. Dripps, told her he wouldn’t pursue the suit for her, but offered to represent her for the sole purpose of bringing the suit before the two-year period of limitations lapsed.
Dripps, according to the ARDC complaint, told her he would voluntarily dismiss the suit after filing it and that she would have to retain another attorney to re-file the matter and would also need a so-called”622 report” from a physician certifying the merits of her claim.
She agreed and in October 2010, Trautmann agreed to represent her. She then had her eye condition evaluated by a doctor, who agreed to provide the report, and told Trautmann to contact the doctor.
The ARDC panel found that Trautmann never communicated with the doctor or received the report and had made false statements to Nantkes, as well as in an affidavit attached to her lawsuit, that he had done otherwise.
It also found that Trautmann failed to take the necessary steps to serve the complaint on the defendants or notify the Nantkes and the court that he was no longer authorized to practice law.
In January 2012, the ARDC says Trautmann’s name was removed from the roll of attorneys in Illinois for failing to comply with the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements.
His name remained stricken from the roll through the May filing of the ARDC’s complaint due to his noncompliance with the MCLE requirements and his failure to register with the ARDC in 2012 and 2013.
Trautmann failed to notify the court that he was no longer authorized to practice law or withdraw as Nantkes’ attorney, according to the ARDC panel.
In addition, Trautmann failed to notify his client that one of the defendants in her suit filed a motion to dismiss based in part on the lack of a 622 report being filed, the panel found.
Even though he was unauthorized to practice law, Trautmann told opposing counsel that he needed to continue a January 2012 hearing because he was ill, the panel found. Opposing counsel agreed and a new hearing date was set.
On the date of the rescheduled hearing, Trautmann faxed a letter to the judge claiming he was in Texas and had to stay there for medical reasons. The judge granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, an order the ARDC says he never informed his client of.
The second count of the ARDC complaint against Trautmann dealt with his representation of Lyndell Walker.
In 2010, Trautmann agreed to represent Walker in his medical malpractice claim against a doctor who had performed emergency surgery on his right eye the year before.
The ARDC panel found that Trautmann never communicated with a doctor who offered to provide expert evidence or took any steps to obtain the required 622 report.
The panel also found that Trautmann failed to file a lawsuit for Walker before the two-year-limitations period lapsed and never informed his client that his claims had become time-barred.
After he filed Walker’s suit over the March 2009 surgery in October 2011, the ARDC alleged that Trautmann failed to properly serve the complaint and took no further action for Walker in his matter.
In addition to a lack of diligence in Walker’s case, the disciplinary commission found that Trautmann made false statements in an affidavit that claimed he had consulted with an expert and needed more time to file the 622 report even though he had not.
The third count of the ARDC complaint dealt with Trautmann’s representation of Jerod Marsh.
Marsh retained Trautmann in 2010 to represent his family in a lawsuit over alleged mold contamination in their rental home.
Trautmann filed suit for the Marshes against the owner and manager of their rental home, but failed to properly serve one of the defendants, according to the panel.
After filing suit and serving one of the defendants, the panel states that Trautmann took no further action in the Marshes’ matter.
Trautmann was also accused of failing to file a response to and attend a hearing on the defendants’ motion to dismiss.
The ARDC further asserted that he failed to notify his clients about the hearing or the judge’s subsequent order that granted the motion to dismiss.
At the hearing last week, the ARDC offered seven exhibits and the testimony of Lyndell Walker and James Burton.
(Bethany Krajelis contributed to this report).