We have, from time to time, written about ethically-challenged lawyers, but a recent case from Illinois reaches a new low. (In the Matter of Ellen Frances Lang)
While most dishonest lawyers defraud strangers, Ms. Lang preyed on her own family. When handling a real estate closing for her mother – yes, her own mother – who was purchasing a suburban Chicago home, Ms. Lang put the title in her own name. She then took out a mortgage on the property, pocketing $150,000.
Apparently determined to pump the well dry, she then convinced her mother that she was suffering from cancer, whereupon her clueless mother let her live in the house, rent-free, and gave her another $275,000 for “medical care.”
Although no parent likes to believe their offspring is a heartless thief, at some point mother Lang tumbled to the antics of her daughter and, in 2009, brought a legal action to “quiet title” to the house. This brought the matter to the attention of the disciplinary committee of the state bar, which, belatedly, characterized her conduct as “reprehensible,” in part because it was “intentionally deceptive” (well, duh). The committee also found that her failure to respond to their complaint and defend her conduct “shows a lack of concern for her profession” (we are not making this up).
At last word, Ms. Lang was unemployed and living in Colorado. She reportedly “has not been active as an Illinois attorney for some time.” While we fear for the folks in Colorado, at least her family in Illinois is now safe.
It's the bad actors such as these who cause attorneys to be so universally maligned.