Danville lawyer agrees to three-year license suspension

Danville lawyer agrees to three-year license suspension

DANVILLE – A Danville attorney has agreed to a three-year suspension of his license to practice law in response to an investigation by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

In August, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed five counts, alleging dishonesty and fraud, against Richard F. Kurth, 56, who practices law in Danville. The commission, created by the Illinois Supreme Court, regulates the practice of law in the state.

According to the commission, Kurth used for personal purposes about $115,000 that he had put in his client trust account in connection with five client matters. Kurth, who has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since Nov. 1, 1977, has never before been disciplined by the commission and has already made full restitution in this case, according to the commission.

According to James Grogan, chief counsel for the commission, Kurth entered into an agreement of "discipline on consent," which is the equivalent of a plea agreement in the court system.

Kurth agreed to a three-year suspension of his license, and in a hearing on Wednesday, a commission hearing board approved the agreement and punishment, Grogan said. The punishment could have ranged anywhere from censure to disbarment.

Grogan said the final step is for the agreement to be submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court, and that will happen soon. However, the court likely will not be able to review the case until January, said Grogan, who added that the supreme court does not rubber stamp these cases. The court reviews them on a case-by-case basis and some have been rejected.

The petition that will go before the supreme court described the misconduct.

Between February 2003 and January 2004, Kurth used for his own purposes and without client permission, the following funds deposited in his client trust account:

– $56,419 that belonged to the estate of Eugene Gurnic from the sale of the decedent's house.

– $21,059 that belonged to George Chin Jr., consisting of funds owed to Chin from the settlement of a legal malpractice matter against another attorney.

– $7,158 that belonged to the estate of William P. Steele and was from the decedent's credit union account and sale of the decedent's car.

– $600 that belonged to the executor of the Steele estate that was an advance for the costs of the probate matter.

– $2,495 that belonged to Gale Heiser and was to be used to pay Heiser's Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan for him.

According to the petition, Kurth transferred the funds without client permission to his personal checking account to cover overdrafts in that account and pay personal expenses including home mortgage payments, Internal Revenue Service payments, his child's university tuition and department store and credit card debts.

Between March 2004 and May 2004, Kurth used without permission $27,445 that belonged to John and Donna Masengale and that was supposed to pay a judgment for them. But Kurth used a large portion of that money to replace the funds that he had previously converted from Chin, so he could pay Chin.

The documents explain that Kurth was "financially overextended and distressed at the time of the conversions," and between May 2004 and December 2004, he secured loans from a friend and his credit union that he used to replace all of the converted funds.

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