Illinois Prosecutor Charged With Ethical Breach in “Grandma Ruse”

Illinois Assistant Attorney General Paul Ambrose Rathburn is the subject of an interesting ethical charge after allegedly using the “grandma ruse” to gain evidence against a condominium project for lack of handicapped access. Rathburn is accused of entering the premises under the false pretense that he was looking for a condo for his grandma when he knew the party was represented and sought information under false pretenses.

We will have to see if defense counsel will not locate Rathburn’s actual grandma and move her into the building. Where is Johnny Cochran when we need him: “If she rents, you must relent.”

Rathburn went to Onan Senior Suites in Waukegan, Ill., along with another lawyer and a disability specialist. He told the building manager he was looking for condos for his grandmother in Wisconsin and allegedly used the false pretense to gain information. It should have been immediately obvious as a ruse. No one from Wisconsin would risk moving to Illinois after the last Packers-Bears game.

Here is the full complaint: Rathburn Complaint

Source: Legal Professionas first seen on ABA Journal

11 thoughts on “Illinois Prosecutor Charged With Ethical Breach in “Grandma Ruse””

  1. Are there state ADA requirements? Maybe the State AG was trying to get votes or doing something to cooperate with DOJ.

    Today DOJ announced it is filing a lawsuit againt the owners developers and design professional involved in the design and construction of 9 multi family housing complexes. There were 2000 apartments including 800 on the ground floor that were required to contain handicapped accessible features.

    You’d think that would be in the building code requirements and would have been flagged at the permit stage … pre construction. It’s strange it would get so far along with such big complexes. We aren’t talking a hole in the wall restaurant.

  2. I am not a lawyer, but there’s a whole bunch of “what?!?” for me as an architect in this story. If they were concerned about the physical layout of the facility, there should be drawings on file from building permits, and/or the local building inspector could inspect the building and review it for ADA compliance (typically door widths, circulation paths free of obstructions like stairs, accessibility of areas like kitchen sinks and bath/shower areas, etc.)

    And what was a prosecutor doing enforcing ADA requirements? In terms of physical barriers, as I said above, they are often enforced as part of the construction/permitting process. If they haven’t done much remodeling since the enactment of the ADA, then the old parts of the building are generally “grandfathered” until they are remodeled. What retirement home wouldn’t WANT to be physically accessible?

    If the Waukegan municipal government wasn’t doing its job enforcing the ADA requirements for this place, that’s a whole other ball of wax. (For instance, if the facility was permitted/constructed in the last few years, and had serious, widespread violations that were ignored by the city…) That might explain why a prosecutor was looking into this.

  3. AY/raff,

    I’m with you fellas.

    This is a tempest in a teacup.

  4. AY,
    I am with you on this one. Isn’t access to the building open to the public? From what I can see he got the same information that he could have gotten through an investigator.

  5. I read about a disabled guy in California who studied the details of ADA requirements and when from one public place to another documenting their violations — width of doors etc. Then he sued them under the ADA. So he was basically doing what the prosecutor was doing with no ruses and no outlay of taxpayer funds. However, California declared him a vexatious litigant for suing so many restaurants even though all his measurements, photos and other documentation of ADA violations were accurate.

    Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where I experienced deprivation of rights also was busted for ADA violations by the handicapped. Being so willing to break the laws there, the city bought busses for the city transit that were on sale because they weren’t handicapped accessible. Then they publicized that they got a good deal because the buses weren’t handicapped accessible. Then they were sued under the ADA for buying buses that weren’t handicapped accessible.

    It’s really clear that businesses don’t want to conform to the ADA. Someone should report the condo’s lawyer to the do nothing attorney regulation counsel for presenting themselves as being competent in real estate law and then not having the ADA on a checklist of requirements. Every other condo in the county should also be investigated as should every business client of that lawyer.

    The use of lawyers to prevent ADA investigations is B.S. just like the use of lawyers to prevent investigations of other law breaking and criminal acts. If we want to clean up our corrupt society, attorney regulation is the place to start.

  6. The lone ABA Journal comment:

    May 19, 2011 7:06 AM CDT

    This is just a variation (thought admittedly a klutzy one), on fair housing “tester” cases, in which a ruse of this sort typically is permitted as within the authorized by law exception to the no-contact rule. Deception is the hallmark of both scenarios. The name of the condo complex is the only newsworthy part of this story.

    Not being a lawyer, I don’t know…, but I wish these folks would leave “grandma” out of it…

  7. Seems like this is a case of Hard Ball litigation….the Defense…knows they don’t have a leg to stand on and doing this in retaliation…

    What would be different is he had hired a PI to gain the same information….

    I have issues with this matter before the disciplinary board…

  8. It should have been immediately obvious as a ruse. No one from Wisconsin would risk moving to Illinois after the last Packers-Bears game.

    Not necessarily so…..I hear that property values have decreased…as the bears fans moved to Arizona looking for that next ocean front view…..

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