Former Holland & Knight partner, Edward Francis Ryan, has been suspended from practicing law for a period of 90 days for allegedly falsifying legal invoices in connection with the work he had provided to defend developer Pinnacle Corporation in a copyright infringement case over a 2-year period from August 2002 to December 2004.
Ryan, who was admitted to practice in 1968 and became a partner in the Chicago office of Holland & Knight in 2000, was being investigated by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) after fellow partner Matthew Farmer blew the whistle in 2005, alleging that Ryan had padded Pinnacle's legal bills in the name of other attorneys (including Farmer) and paralegals for work they didn’t actually perform.
In the final version of the bills charged to Pinnacle, Ryan had removed 1,389 hours of his personal time and had added about 2,000 hours of work attributed to others at the firm, according to ARDC.
In November 2008, ARDC charged Ryan with one count of falsifying time on invoices for matters on which Farmer and others had worked and with two counts of making false representation to the tribunal that the invoice amount and other billing details in the memorandum of law in support of the motion for attorneys' fees and costs was true and correct.
Incidentally, Pinnacle, which was owned by a company organized by Ryan's brother, did not complain about the doctored bills even after Farmer blew the whistle.
In the copyright infringement case, the jury had returned a verdict in favor of Pinnacle and the company did not challenge $5.5 million in attorneys' fees charged by Holland & Knight as the district court had granted a summary judgment in Pinnacle's favour, ruling that its insurance company Connecticut Specialty Insurance Co should pay the cost of its defense.
The Illinois Supreme Court has suspended Ryan for 90 days but did not disbar him on the ground that he had acknowledged his misdeed and had a long record of community service and charitable activities.
ARDC also did not seek disbarment as Ryan had previously never been disciplined in a lengthy and distinguished career.
The suspension, which will begin from December 3, 2010, is largely symbolic as Ryan retired from Holland & Knight and from active law practice in 2008.