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In Re Rinella

Supreme Court of Illinois
677 N.E. 2d 909 (1997)


Facts

Attorney Richard Rinella (defendant) was charged with professional misconduct for engaging in sexual relations with clients and testifying falsely before the state disciplinary commission. The complaint against Rinella alleged that he had made sexual advances toward certain clients. The clients did not want to engage in sexual activity with Rinella, but felt that they had to in order for Rinella to zealously represent them. At a disciplinary hearing, Rinella argued that no disciplinary rule specifically forbade sexual relations between an attorney and a client. The hearing board found that Rinella had engaged in sexual relations with three clients while he or his law firm had represented those clients. The hearing board found that this conduct amounted to overreaching, because Rinella used his position of influence over the clients to pressure them to engage in sexual relations. The hearing board also found that Rinella had violated other rules of professional conduct, including using client confidences to his advantage, failing to withdraw from cases where his professional judgment might have been affected, and failing to represent his clients with undivided fidelity. The hearing board recommended that Rinella be suspended for three years. Rinella filed exceptions to the hearing board’s findings, arguing that imposing discipline without a specific prohibition would violate due process, because he did not have adequate notice that his conduct was prohibited. Rinella also argued that his conduct did not amount to overreaching.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Heiple, C.J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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