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Former Coles County public defender agrees to voluntary disbarment

CHARLESTON (MCT) — Former Coles County Public Defender Lonnie Lutz has agreed to a voluntary disbarment in connection with allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with clients.

On Tuesday, Lutz filed a motion asking that his name be removed from the state's master role of attorneys, according to records of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. With the filing, Lutz agreed that the evidence against him "would clearly and convincingly establish the facts and conclusions of misconduct," the commission's records show.

Lutz's decision amounts to a voluntary disbarment, which was the strongest sanction possible with the commission's case, commission spokesman Peter Rotskoff said.

The final step is for the Illinois Supreme Court to accept Lutz's request, which will likely be during the court's term that starts next week, Rotskoff said. Once that happens, the panel's case against Lutz will be concluded, he said.

The commission's complaint was filed in August and accused the now-retired Lutz of making unwanted sexual advances, including physical contact, toward three women he represented during 2010 and 2012.

Contacted Wednesday, Lutz said his decision was based on a desire to get the matter concluded, avoiding "thousands of dollars in legal fees" and the year or more it might otherwise take to resolve the case.

"I'm not making any admissions," Lutz said. "It's far from proving the allegations."

Rodney Smith, the attorney who represented Lutz on the commission's complaint, said taking the time and expense to fight the charges "doesn't make any sense" when Lutz is retired and doesn't plan to practice law again.

"It's not an admission at all," Smith said. "We still deny any and all charges."

Lutz officially went on retirement status in June after more than 30 years as Coles County's public defender and is not authorized to practice law.

However, Rotskoff explained, that's voluntary on Lutz's part and, before his agreeing to disbarment, he could have returned to active practice.

That meant the complaint could still result in sanctions, he said. The possible sanctions ranged from censure, or a formal mark on Lutz's record, to disbarment, which would prevent him from practicing law altogether.

Lutz could petition the state Supreme Court to have his law license reinstated but the court wouldn't automatically grant that, Rotskoff said. The voluntary move on Lutz's part means he's eligible to apply for reinstatement in three years, as opposed to five years had it been involuntary.

The commission's complaint accused Lutz of inappropriate behavior with clients and alleged that his actions amounted to battery. However, no criminal charges were filed in connection with any of the incidents.

(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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