SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Supreme Court this week ordered a suspension of five - months and 25 days for Urbana attorney Robert Isham Auler and said he must return a total of $4,677.64 to three clients.
The court order issued on Monday endorsed the recommendation of an Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission Review Board, despite an attempt by the commission's administrator to obtain a stiffer punishment for Auler.
The suspension will take effect on Oct. 17, according to the Supreme Court order.
The delay is to give him time to wind down his practice in an orderly way, said James Grogan, chief counsel for the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
In a complaint filed in late 2002 and amended in mid-2003, Auler was accused of misconduct involving fees paid by six clients, which he denied.
The commission's hearing board found that Auler had committed much of the alleged misconduct, and recommended a nine-month suspension, with the final 30 days stayed by one year of probation.
The commission's administrator challenged the disciplinary part of the hearing board's decision, requesting a full nine-month suspension.
The case was then sent to the review board, which in March 2005 recommended a suspension of just under six months, allowing Auler to avoid the mandatory court and client notification that Supreme Court rules require for suspensions of six months or more.
In its report, the review board cited the hearing board's findings that Auler's "misconduct did not result from any dishonest motive, evil design or fraudulent intent" and that he had "taken important steps to solve the office problems that contributed to his misconduct."
The administrator again petitioned for a longer suspension of at least nine months, but the Supreme Court denied that request on Monday.
In January 2002, the Supreme Court censured Auler for failing to immediately refund money to two other clients in unrelated cases. Auler, who eventually returned the money to those two clients, signed a consent agreement with the commission admitting that he should have paid the clients back sooner and that censure was an appropriate punishment.
Auler did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.
The review board's report on Auler, which outlines its findings and his alleged misconduct, is available on the Internet at www.iardc.org.02SH0102RB.HTML .