A lawyer who allegedly took $15,000 from a client for his own use, was charged with criminal trespass for attempts to enter the Kane County Jail without proper attorney credentials, and then allegedly repeatedly threatened judges and other Kane County justice officials, accusing them of engaging in a racist conspiracy against him, was among five lawyers disbarred by the Illinois Supreme Court.
The state high court announced it had signed off on the recommendation from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission to disbar attorney David A. Bertha, of Chicago, one of five attorney disbarments ordered by the court in a Jan. 21 release.
Justices also suspended 14 other attorneys, while censuring two.
According to information included in documents related to disciplinary proceedings before the ARDC, Bertha, since 2010, had allegedly appropriated to himself and his father about $15,000 in various payments submitted to him by a client who had agreed to represent in certain Chicago real estate and foreclosure matters following the death of the client’s mother.
For instance, in 2010 and 2012, the ARDC reports indicated the client paid Bertha a total of $13,000, presuming Bertha would deposit the funds in an escrow account, as demanded by Bank of America, with whom the client was embroiled at the time in foreclosure proceedings over her late mother’s home. Instead, the ARDC reports indicated Bertha allegedly either cashed the checks or deposited them into his father’s personal checking accounts. The client later demanded repayment of the money, a written request Bertha has allegedly not yet fulfilled.
The ARDC reports also alleged Bertha told his client he had initiated certain probate and collections actions on her behalf, when he had not.
In 2013, the ARDC reports said Bertha was arrested and charged with criminal trespass when he allegedly attempted for a second time to enter the Kane County Jail in suburban St. Charles, ostensibly to meet with a client, but failed to present valid attorney identification. The ARDC report said Kane County Sheriff’s Police had warned Bertha, following his first attempt to enter the jail without valid attorney credentials, he would be charged with criminal trespass if he returned and attempted to do so again.
Following his arrest, the ARDC reports said Bertha then launched a campaign of threats against various Kane County judges, who he insinuated were part of a racist conspiracy against him. He repeatedly referred to them as officials of “KKKane County” and, in a letter to Kane County Judge John Noverini, who was handling his case, referred to himself as “King David,” said he would “slay Goliath, at least two judges, at least two ASAs (Assistant State’s Attorneys),” and was “coming for war,” comparing himself to legendary Carthaginian general, Hannibal.
He also repeatedly referred to female judges by obscene and derogatory terms in court filings, and said in a letter to Kane County Chief Judge Judith Brawka that he would “fight anybody and everybody in KKKane County,” adding, “Thurgood Marshall told me Judge Judy (Brawka) is a racist.”
The ARDC reports said these repeated insinuations of violence were seen by the courts as threatened assaults and battery against judges and other county officials.
The reports indicated Bertha then refused to participate in subsequent ARDC disciplinary proceedings against him. The ARDC recommended Bertha be disbarred and be required to repay his former client $14,900 as a condition of reinstatement.
Other attorneys ordered disbarred by the state Supreme Court on Jan. 21, included:
Anthony Campanale, of Chicago, who was disbarred by consent, after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of mail fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud lenders;
Robert K. Lock, of Chicago, who was disbarred on consent, after he continued to practice law following suspension and misled his client and other attorneys on the matter;
Howard Reich, of Chicago, who allegedly continued to represent clients on real estate matters after he had been suspended;
Paul Leslie Shelton, of Hinsdale, who allegedly “improperly entered into a business transaction with a client, fraudulently notarized a document affecting that client’s interests, and made a false statement in a legal action concerning the client’s interests.” The ARDC also alleged Shelton acted as attorney and real estate broker in the same transaction and mismanaged client funds, among other allegations.
George M. Zuganelis, of Chicago, who was disbarred on consent, after he allegedly misappropriated client funds and “made false statements to his client about the status of her immigration petition.”
The state Supreme Court also suspended 14 other attorneys, including:
Johnny McCraw Jr., of Chicago - Two years and until further order of the court, after allegedly violating terms of disciplinary probation imposed after he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance;
Keith E. Yard, of Morris – Two years and until further order of the court, after he was convicted of DUI and driving while his license was suspended;
Herbert E. McMeen, of Murphysboro – Two years and until further order of the court, after allegedly misappropriating estate funds while acting as executor of an estate;
Ron L. Richards, of Lake Villa – 18 months and until further order of the court, for allegedly neglecting two separate client matters and misappropriating client funds;
Shannan H. Bedgood, of Oak Park – One year and until further order of the court, after she was charged with misdemeanor retail theft;
Frank J. Edelen, of Palos Hills – Six months and until further order of the court for commingling personal funds in a trust fund account;
Joel C. Runkle, of Grayslake – Six months and until further order of the court and until he makes restitution, for allegedly neglecting a client’s real estate matter;
Frank A. Santilli, of Chicago – Five months, for allegedly failing to comply with the terms of a prior disciplinary probation over allegations he “used client settlement funds for his own business purposes, delayed returning funds to a client, failed to pursue an EEOC claim for another client, and advanced prohibited financial assistance to a client;”
William B. Blanchard, of Geneva – 90 days;
Joseph A. Morris, of Chicago – 90 days;
Grant R. Niehus, of Deerfield – 90 days;
Harry P. Friedlander, of Phoenix, Az. – 60 days, followed by two years probation, as reciprocal discipline following his suspension in Arizona;
John J. Lynch, of Chicago, 30 days;
Steven W. Whitmore, of Rockford – 30 days.
Two attorneys were censured, including: Donald L. Homyk, of Chicago, and Brian J. Russell, of Oswego.