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Illinois Panel Recommends Oak Park Lawyer Be Disbarred

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An Oak Park lawyer is accused of using clients' cash to pay for personal expenses.

Now a state panel is recommending the woman be disbarred.

CBS 2's Chris Tye made a strange discovery in the case. One state agency continues to recommend this lawyer to help families trying to adopt.

"A danger to the public" and "behavior that defies common sense." That's how the state panel in charge of investigating attorney misconduct framed this officer of the court.

A truck driver awarded  $10,000 in a workers comp case back in 2013 was the first client to flag trouble. He hired Oak Park lawyer Valarie Franklin, who he said spent his money.

To investigate attorney misconduct in the state, The Illinois Supreme Court has a group of lawyers and non-lawyers known as the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission -- or ARDC.

The ARDC report into Valarie Franklin "...recommended... [she] be disbarred."

They found she "... failed to keep the funds of ten clients separate from her own and knowingly used those funds for her own purposes." and  "...the amount she converted exceeded $122,000."

The ARDC said she would pull money using her ATM card and used client dollars for groceries and manicures.

"...we determined that [she] falsified documents..."

Gave "...false testimony.." And that she "...presents a danger to the public."

But the same state that admonished her still gives her prominent placement on a list she should no longer be on. The Department of Children and Family Services has a panel of attorneys named on its website to assist parents trying to adopt children in state care.

It's called the Statewide Adoption Attorney Panel. Franklin remains one of the 100 attorneys listed, even though members can't have been disciplined by the ARDC.

So how is she still listed?

When CBS 2 asked, the Department of Children and Family Services couldn't answer.

The Illinois Supreme Court will decide if she should be disbarred. Ms. Franklin's attorneys said she plans to appeal the ruling. That she should have been offered probation and all clients were eventually paid.

Her lawyers said she plans to appeal and will need to do that in the next two weeks.

DCFS responded to CBS 2 saying Franklin has been pulled from the panel after CBS 2's questions.

The agency said she has handled hundreds of cases of families trying to adopt children over the last 18 years. But does not know how many cases she was currently handling.


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