SPRINGFIELD — Another panel of attorneys who sit in judgment of their peers has recommended that Champaign lawyer Walter Ding be suspended from practicing law for six months or longer.
In a decision issued Wednesday, the hearings review board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission recommended that Ding, a lawyer for 27 years, be suspended by the Illinois Supreme Court “for six months or until further order of the court.”
Given the time frame for an appeal, it’s unlikely that the Illinois Supreme Court would act on the recommendation before its January term. The high court has the final say about lawyer discipline.
The findings followed a four-count complaint filed against Ding, 52, who grew up in Mahomet, in August 2018 for neglecting a client matter, ignoring the client when she tried to contact him, failing to return unearned fees, practicing when he had failed to register, and failing to cooperate with the ARDC as it investigated the complaints.
The complaint is full of examples of both the complaining client and representatives of the ARDC investigating Ding trying in vain to reach him. It states that Ding failed to answer emails, voicemails, phone calls, registered mail and even a subpoena from the ARDC.
The complaint also outlined 54 court cases in Champaign, Vermilion, and Piatt counties in which Ding entered his appearance for clients in March 2017 and March 2018 when he had been stricken from the roll of attorneys because he hadn’t registered or paid his annual attorney registration fee.
When Ding failed to answer the complaint or appear in person or through an attorney for his disciplinary hearing, the board found him guilty of the misconduct and recommended the “six-month and until further order of the court” suspension.
Ding appealed, calling that recommendation unduly harsh, but the review board upheld the recommendation of the hearing board, saying his failure to appear “gave the hearing panel no information by which to discern whether his conduct was simply a matter of neglect or mistaken judgment. ...”
The review board said the “until further order of the court” suspension is warranted to protect the public. It noted that in each of the 142 disciplinary cases decided between January 2009 and June 2019 that involved default by the attorney, the hearing board recommended either disbarment or a suspension until further order of the court.
Ding, who was still appearing in court as recently as this week, has been officially separated for over a month from the law firm of Dodson, Piraino & Associates, where he had an office for about the last 24 years.
He did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.