Three local attorneys were sanctioned by the Illinois Supreme Court during the May term for engaging in professional misconduct, including failing to disclose a personal relationship, concealing evidence and improperly entering into a business transaction with clients.
Collinsville attorney Deborah Crouse Cobb, Aviston attorney Mark Brian Moran and Belleville attorney Raymond Ripplinger were disciplined by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) for engaging in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.
The ARDC investigates alleged wrongdoing by Illinois attorneys, holds hearings on specific charges and recommends discipline to the Supreme Court, which has sole authority to discipline lawyers for misconduct.
Crouse-Cobb, who has been licensed since 1984, has been disciplined for failing to provide competent representation to clients in an adoption case.
“Specifically, she failed to obtain reports of the clients’ psychological evaluations or discuss those evaluations with her clients, even though she expected the evaluations to be a subject of the court proceeding.
“She also had a conflict of interest due to her business and personal relationship with the adoption agency involved in the case, failed to adequately explain the nature of the conflict to her clients, and failed to withdraw from representing the clients when her continued representation would result in her representing them while she had a conflict of interest,” the Attorney Regulation Case Summaries states.
Crouse-Cobb is suspended for 60 days, effective June 14.
In December 2016, Crouse-Cobb settled a legal malpractice case filed against her and adoption agency Family Choices, NFPC, by Greg and Janet Warren.
The suit alleges the Warrens entered into a contractual relationship with Crouse-Cobb of Crouse-Cobb & Bays on Nov. 22, 2015, to provide legal services related to the adoption of Jude Warren, a child.
However, the Warrens claims Crouse-Cobb failed to disclose her relationship with Family Choices. She is adoption agent Susan Wolk’s sister, who worked on the adoption case at issue, according to the complaint.
The Warrens allege Crouse-Cobb prepared a surrender document for the signature of the natural parents, but the document improperly designated Family Choices as the recipient of the child.
Crouse-Cobb also allegedly told the plaintiffs that it was necessary to appoint an agency to investigate the adoption of the child, but state statute has no such requirement if the child is related to the adopters, the Warrens claim in their August 2015 suit.
The Warrens further argue that the case was delayed for more than 12 months, which rendered the parental surrenders irreversible and caused the child to be placed with Family Choices. The adoption petition was ultimately dismissed.
Ripplinger, who has been a licensed attorney since 1970, has been censured for concealing evidence.
“During the course of representing a client in a legal malpractice action, he concealed evidence from opposing counsel regarding his client’s injuries in a separate matter, as well as the existence of a lawsuit his client had filed related to those injuries," according to the ARDC.
“He also violated court orders during the ensuing jury trials by attempting to elicit testimony that the trial judge had determined was inadmissible."
Moran, a licensed attorney since 1989, has been suspended for two years until further order of the court.
“He improperly entered into a business transaction with clients, failed to inform clients that a judgment order had been entered against them, and failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in an appeal,” the discipline order states.
Moran’s reinstatement is conditioned upon the payment of restitution of $6,250, plus interest.