MORRISON – A former Sterling attorney charged with raping two clients in his office in 2019 now is being sued by one of them for malpractice, while his law firm and former partner are being sued for negligence.
The suit, filed Monday in Whiteside County Court, names Michael A. Lancaster, 65, of Rock Falls, his former law partner, John E. Miller, and their firm, Miller & Lancaster P.C., then at 15 E. Third St. It accuses the defendants of negligent retention, negligent supervision and malpractice.
The woman, identified at her request as Jane Doe, hired Lancaster on June 1, 2019. On that Sept. 30, he asked her to meet him at the office at 4:30 p.m. to discuss her case. Unbeknownst to her, the office closed at that time, and when she arrived, he locked the front door, took her into his office and raped her, the suit says.
It was not the first time he sexually assaulted a client, the suit says, so Miller and the firm “knew or should have known that defendant Lancaster was a danger to third persons and was under a duty to protect its clients, including Jane Doe, from defendant Lancaster.”
(Lancaster is accused in criminal court of raping one client in February 2019, and Doe seven months later, on Sept. 30. He was charged in Doe’s case first, on Oct. 10, 2019, and in the other that Oct. 29. He pleaded not guilty to both.)
Essentially, the first two counts accuses Miller and the firm of being negligent for not firing Lancaster or sufficiently supervising him in the wake of the unspecified previous sexual assault, and Lancaster and the firm for malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty – not only was she assaulted, but Doe also had to delay her case while she found and paid for another attorney.
In all three counts, the suit seeks damages “in excess of the jurisdictional limit of the Circuit Court of Whiteside County” and demands a jury trial.
Doe is represented by Bridget Duignan of Lathrow & Duignan in Chicago, and by co-counsel Thomas D. Murray of Dixon.
None of the three defendants have had time to respond to the suit; their representation was not available nor has a hearing been set.
According to Illinois State Bar records, both Lancaster and Miller retired in 2019. Lancaster handled divorce, personal injury, civil and criminal defense cases.
In his first criminal case, Lancaster is charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault, punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison, and one count of unlawful restraint, which carries 1 to 3 years.
According to investigators, Lancaster, who is 6-foot-4 and at least 250 pounds,, “by use of force or threat” confined a 42-year-old woman in his office on Sept. 30, 2019, digitally penetrated her and forced her to perform oral sex on him. He was arrested that Oct. 10.
In the second case, filed that Oct. 29, Lancaster is charged with one count of criminal sexual assault of a 25-year-old woman, who was attacked between Feb. 18 and 22, investigators said.
Lancaster pleaded not guilty and is free on $300,000 bond awaiting his next status hearing in both cases, which will be scheduled sometime in October, court records show.