Chicago area attorney Paul Weiss has been disbarred by the Illinois Supreme Court over sexual misconduct findings that spanned a decade and involved seven women.
"He was found to have engaged in criminal conduct of a sexual nature against various women he employed at his law office, a female friend of his former landlord, and a woman walking down a suburban side street," says a notice of the court's ruling posted today.
The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) filed charges against Weiss in December 2008, and later amended its complaint to include additional charges involving more victims.
The ARDC's complaint against Weiss detailed claims of assault, battery, phone harassment, public indecency and disorderly conduct stemming from Weiss’s interactions with the women from 2000 to 2010.
Among other things, Weiss was accused of asking five former female employees to have sex with him, inappropriately touching them, repeatedly calling them at home and of exposing himself to them, as well as two other women.
He was accused of asking a female associate at his law firm to show him her body or wear a bathing suit to the office.
In August, the Supreme Court placed Weiss on interim suspension after a review board of the ARDC in July recommended he be suspended for 30 months and until further order. The decision to disbar lies solely with the Supreme Court.
The review board panel was split 2-1, with the dissent calling for disbarment. The majority decision had actually stiffened a ruling from a hearing board that would have simply suspended Weiss for 30 months on six findings of sexual misconduct.
Dissenting review board member Richard Green wrote, “Nothing in the record shows that he will not continue with the misconduct. Clearly this behavior leads the profession into disrepute.”
Review board members Charles Pinkston and Jill Landsberg, for the majority, classified Weiss as a bad risk, but also wrote that “the bulk of his misconduct occurred quite some time ago.”
They also credited him with “good work in the field of class action law.”
“For these reasons we think disbarment is not appropriate,” they wrote.
In 1998, Weiss and former law firm leader Tom Lakin of Wood River agreed to pursue class actions together in Madison County.
The combination of Weiss’s experience and Lakin’s prestige pushed them ahead of other local lawyers who had rushed into the class action field.
Weiss filed hundreds of class complaints with Tom Lakin’s son, Brad Lakin.
They often filed them in batches, alleging the same act of misconduct against multiple defendants.
The partnership collapsed after federal prosecutors charged Tom Lakin with drug crimes, and a dispute broke out over fees from successful suits.
Weiss sued the Lakins in Cook County, the Lakins sued Weiss in Madison County, and they eventually resolved their disputes.
Steve Korris contributed to this report.