(CBS) — Recently CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez told you about a lawyer who files lots of questionable lawsuits.
Now, that lawyer is in trouble with the state of Illinois.
A lawyer claiming to help the disabled by suing small Chicago businesses to over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act is in his own legal trouble, with the state agency that disciplines lawyers.
Some claimed lawyer John L. Steele was more interested in making money than making changes. Several Chicago restaurants were slapped with lawsuits for not being accessible to the disabled and said Steele was willing to drop the cases for cash settlements.
Steele now finds himself charged with bad faith litigation, dishonest conduct and fraud.
The complaint by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission deals with an alleged shakedown of people suspected of illegally downloading porn. Steele is accused of threatening a lawsuit, unless they settled out of court.
“That to me sounds … remarkably like extortion,” says Kent College of Law Professor Richard Kling.
It sounds familiar to the lawyer for Club Lago, one of the businesses that allegedly fell afoul of the ADA.
“It’s the same business model: Use the courts as a cash machine,” says Alexander Loftus.
Loftus says he’s surprised Steele continues to file litigation while he’s under state scrutiny.
“Either he’s oblivious to the fact that he’s doing anything wrong, and thinks there’s nothing wrong with what he’s doing; or he doesn’t care. He’s making money,” Kling says.
In fact, those porn lawsuits — and there were thousands of them — netted Steele more than $15 million in three years.
CBS 2 reached out to Steele for comment but was not successful. He potentially faces censure to disbarment.