Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What attorney who’s worth anything doesn’t have a conflict of interest?

As I write this, I can hear the moans and groans of those individuals who as recently as a few days ago were convinced that they finally had that crook, otherwise known as “Mr. Speaker,” just where they wanted him.

MADIGAN: Breathing easier
Seriously, I came across several comments on the Internet (all anonymous) Thursday and Friday that had as their theme the idea that former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins was going to be the guy who – after all these decades – would catch Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago, in some sort of act that would send him off to a federal prison.

NOT THAT ANY of these people had a clue what this illegal act would turn out to be. In fact, I sense for them what ought to be “illegal” about Madigan is that he has the “D” after his name, instead of an “R.”

But they want him, by any means necessary. And Collins is the guy who gets credit for putting former Gov. George Ryan in prison for all those years.

So how disappointed the ideologues likely are because Collins on Monday said he’s not available to do any investigation of Metra and its former CEO – who allegedly engaged in assorted political hiring and other inappropriate behavior; some of which was supposedly done at the request of Madigan.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know anything specifically about this particular investigation – other than that Collins was supposedly going to be involved.

BUT COLLINS’ LAW firm, Perkins Coie, let it be known Sunday that it has a “potential conflict” in being involved with this case, and that Collins himself is not available to be involved in this matter.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that an initial check on Collins showed no problems, but that the law firm later learned of “additional conflict issues.” Which is purposefully vague.

COLLINS: Stepping aside voluntarily
The fact that Collins won’t be involved in the case, after all, means he will be able to get away without telling us what the potential problem was.

But it does mean that the “investigation” into Metra and former CEO Alex Clifford is going to have to wait until an attorney can be found who is capable of conducting an investigation without there being some perception that he (or she) is biased in favor of Madigan or Metra.

WHICH COULD TURN out to be difficult.

One of the issues involved is that Madigan has been involved in the Springfield political and Chicago legal communities for so long that it is hard to envision anybody who would be absolutely neutral whenever his name comes up. The idea of a completely-nonpartisan investigator may not be possible.

Take into account the case involving Richard “R.J.” Vanecko; the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and also of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful William Daley.

Remember how his criminal case was originally assigned to Judge Arthur Hill – who voluntarily backed away because he admitted his legal career owed significant ties to Richard M. back when he was the Cook County state’s attorney?

OFFICIALS SOUGHT OUT a judge from outside of Cook County, and Maureen McIntyre of McHenry County ultimately got assigned to the case. She remains on it, even though the Chicago Sun-Times came up with a batch of allegations concerning she and her ex-husband that makes her appear to be less-than-ideal.

If anything, we tend to have a legal system that gives us “justice” despite the characteristics of the individuals who work in the system.

Which is why Madigan may be able to breathe a bit easier these days concerning this Metra stuff. It may well turn out that any future attorney who gets dragged into conducting this investigation is going to be scrutinized so intensely (that’s “scrootened,” in former Mayor Daley speak) that they may decide the duties aren’t worth the hassle.


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