CHAMPAIGN — A hearing panel for the state agency that disciplines lawyers has recommended that a Champaign attorney's license be suspended because he neglected a client and failed to cooperate with an investigation.
The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has recommended that the Illinois Supreme Court suspend the license of Walter Ding, an attorney in Champaign County for some 25 years, for at least six months.
The high court makes the ultimate decisions on discipline but generally accepts the recommendations of the ARDC. And if a suspension is imposed, a lawyer must apply for reinstatement, which is not automatic.
In its decision, the hearing board found that because Ding did nothing to respond to a four-count complaint filed against him last August, the allegations were deemed admitted.
In other words, because he did nothing to defend himself — including not answering board inquiries, appearing before the board or sending an attorney on his behalf — the board found him guilty of client neglect and of failing to cooperate with the ARDC.
The board considered the fact that Ding had not been previously disciplined but said it found aggravating evidence that his misconduct was "not an isolated incident."
" ... He failed to cooperate in any way during the disciplinary investigation, and he completely failed to participate in this disciplinary proceeding. Based upon respondent's overall conduct, there is a serious question as to whether he is able or willing to practice law in an ethical manner," the recommendation said.
In the four-count complaint, Ding was accused of:
— Taking money in 2017 from a client to seal court records related to the woman's daughter's misdemeanor conviction, then doing nothing on the case and not returning $642 in attorney and filing fees.
— Ignoring multiple attempts by ARDC staff to contact him during 2018 about the client's complaint and failing to appear before the hearing board after a subpoena had been issued for him to do so.
— Appearing in court on behalf of clients in March 2017 and March 2018 at a time when his name was stricken from the roll of attorneys because he had not registered and paid his annual fee.
A graduate of Mahomet-Seymour High School and Northwestern University, where he played football, Ding has mostly concentrated his practice on traffic and criminal defense work.
After graduating from law school at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, he was admitted to the bar in 1992 and worked for about a year as an assistant state's attorney in Vermilion County.
He then moved to Champaign County and for several years represented indigent clients in criminal cases on contract for the county.
Ding has worked in private practice for about 24 years at Dodson Piraino and Associates in Champaign.
He could not be reached for comment.