On Thursday, September 21, 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court disbarred Patricia Manila Martin, a former Cook County judge accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the late Oscar Wilkerson Jr., a 95-year-old distinguished member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
On June 26, 2023, Martin submitted a motion to the Illinois Supreme Court seeking to resign from the state bar and have her name stricken from the roll of attorneys. This came as Martin faced pending disciplinary charges alleging she misused funds belonging to Wilkerson Jr.
According to a statement of charges filed by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), the alleged misconduct began in November 2020 when Martin, the niece of Oscar Lawton Wilkerson Jr.’s former spouse, agreed to help manage Wilkerson’s finances after he moved into an elder care facility. Martin assisted Wilkerson’s friend Dr. Maceo R. Ellison, who held power of attorney for Wilkerson at the time.
Over the next two years, Martin allegedly deposited over $300,000 of Wilkerson’s money into her own bank accounts and used at least $246,203 of it to purchase cryptocurrency and other personal expenditures, without Wilkerson’s consent. She also allegedly closed his investment and bank accounts in late 2020 and falsely told Ellison in April 2022 that the accounts still held significant balances.
After discovering the accounts had been drained, Ellison hired attorney Eric Puryear, who filed a civil suit against Martin in September 2022 alleging conversion and exploitation. Martin admitted wrongdoing in her December 2022 answer to the suit. Wilkerson died in February 2023.
The ARDC opened an investigation after receiving notice from Puryear in February 2023. Despite extensions, Martin failed to provide records accounting for Wilkerson’s funds in response to the ARDC’s requests. Facing formal charges, Martin moved to resign from the Illinois bar on June 26, 2023, before her disciplinary case could be heard.
On September 21, 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court approved Patricia Manila Martin’s motion, resulting in her disbarment. This decision effectively removes her from the roster of licensed attorneys, marking a significant development in the case.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.