An Open Letter to the Villanova Community

Dear administrators, faculty, staff, past and present students, It is with deep introspection and a heavy heart that I write this letter for two reasons. First, I would like to correct some errors printed about me in another periodical in an article written about me by someone who solicited comments from everyone but me. That article is misleadingly titled “VU Business Professor Disbarred and Dismissed.” Second, since you have heard from others, it is only appropriate to hear directly from me. I was not found “guilty” or “convicted” of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. In fact, unfortunately, I was never “adjudged” at all. Early in the process of formal charges being filed against me, I sought out the advice of an attorney who was “famous” for handling these types of matters. The entire attorney disciplinary process was foreign to me, since I had never received a complaint in 30 years of practicing law. It was also very different from any other process I had encountered as an attorney in any state or federal court or administrative agency. I was advised by my first attorney to sign a stipulation prepared by the Disciplinary Board which was over 40 paragraphs and several pages long. I received the stipulation the day before my initial hearing. That stipulation included admissions of wrongdoing that were incorrect. I never intentionally did anything wrong. In fact, I had documentary proof and live witnesses to support my version of the events. When I protested this to my first attorney, he assured me he would meet with me one hour before the hearing to discuss the decision. Ten minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin, he arrived and told me that if I fought the charges it would be worse for me than just pleading for mercy. Despite my every instinct and rational thought in my body, I made the biggest mistake of my whole life and signed the stipulation at the insistence of my first attorney. When I realized I had been “sold down the river,” I changed to another attorney and demanded that the stipulation be withdrawn so I could put on a legitimate defense to the charges. The short version is that, despite Herculean efforts by my new attorney and the Disciplinary Board violating its own ruling, the stipulation was determined to be valid and binding, and therefore, I was disbarred. I was deprived of an opportunity to present a defense and prevented from producing any character testimony which probably would have reduced the level of punishment. None of my 30 plus unblemished years as a practicing attorney were considered to their full extent nor any of my pro bono (free) legal work (free legal clinic at Villanova, in which I helped more than 1,000 students, service on several non-profit boards and my representation of thousands of gypsies worldwide against the Swiss Banks who hid gold and money from Holocaust victims for the Nazis, to name a few) was made known to the Disciplinary Board. None of my character witnesses were allowed to testify. Equally important, the “due process” of Villanova is not over but has just begun. Although I readily agree that I was treated with respect and compassion by the Administration, I heartily disagree that during this process I should be denied my tenured, contractual right to teach. Other than God and family, my greatest passion is teaching. If the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania allowed me to practice law during its process and for 30 days after my disbarment order, I see no reason why after 30 years of service at Villanova I should not be allowed to teach while the University’s due process continues. With everything I’ve been through, my ability to teach legal rights, remedies, litigation and yes, even ethics, has only been heightened and not diminished. In closing, I would like to thank the countless numbers of people who have reached out to offer me compassion and support. My fervent wish is that since I have now endured the embarrassment of a public article about me along with this public response, the due process situation at Villanova be allowed to continue privately so that my ultimate situation be allowed to resolve itself with the dignity and respect of all parties. This public discussion has taken an increased emotional toll on me and especially my family. My hope is that as my due process concludes over the next several months, it will become an opportunity for me and the administration to gain a deeper understanding of Veritas, Unitas and Caritas. Respectfully, Sebastian M. Rainone