It had to happen; Blogger Beware – the hand you bite may bite back; Durham Suspended; Parenting Time Changes; Indiana Talks.

I knew it would happen

I know this lawyer, and the nice things the hearing officer reported to the Supreme Court about her are true, from my experience. But she got reprimanded. I must admit, the facts are hard to decipher from the recitation of events in the opinion, but it appears that the lawyer took on a big case, apparently too big for a single lawyer to take on in the manner she did. She created a class of 64 plaintiffs who may not have had similar interests (since some had settled their claims before becoming part of the class), and they gave her authority to settle without getting further input from the clients, which is power that a lawyer should not have. The Court says that they insisted on it, and she accepted the authority. During mediation, she had a short period of time to accept or reject an offer that seemed appropriate for all 64 clients. She exercised the authority to settle rather than to leave the offer on the table. (Thanks OC and mediator).

It is not clear who reported the matter, but it does not sound (from the opinion) that any of the clients were upset with the settlement, offended by her actions, or thought any inappropriate action had occurred, but that is not the test under Rule 8.4.  Lawyers must let the clients make the decisions to settle, as painful as that can be from time to time (Rule 1.2(a)). Aggregate settlements are tricky creatures, and must be handled with care and with the informed consent of each client (Rule 1.8(g)). When lawyers fail to get informed consent, it usually leads to the failure to explain a matter so the client can make an informed decision (Rule 1.4(b)).

Although the Disciplinary Commission lawyer argued for and sought a suspension from the practice, the public reprimand seems right.

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Blogger Beware

The National Law Journal reported that a Chicago lawyer and blogger got caught up in a legal matter that prompted her to make allegations that the IL probate process is “a sleazy world of probate” and that there is “malpractice and malfeasance by attorneys and the court.”  Amazingly someone took offense at that.  The lawyer Joanne Denison now faces an ethics complaint.

It seems to stem from the court rejecting an application by Denison to serve as a guardian, after the court found that Denison had notarized the signature of a woman who might have been  suffering from dementia at the time of the signature, and that the document favored the woman’s daughter, a client of Denison, over others in the family.  They thought that was worthy of disqualification from serving as guardian in this matter. Denison went ballistic, created a blog in the name of the potential ward, and started blasting away at the judges and lawyers alike.  She named names and recounted allegations, apparently without due regard to the facts underlying the matters.

The ethics allegation is that the blog contains “comments that are false or made with reckless disregard for the truth.”  Oops.

I will take that into consideration as I write and edit this blog, and invite others to do likewise in their own writings.  As one reply to the NLJ article mentions, Rule 8.3(a) states: “A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of Rule 8.4(b) or Rule 8.4(c) shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”  That is not an invitation to inform via blog.

H/T Patrick Olmstead

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Durham Suspended

Indy Ponzi scheme convict Tim Durham, the subject of a previous post here, was suspended from the practice of law based on his finding of guilt in the $200M fraud case of Fair Finance. Durham was sentenced to 50 years, so unless he was planning a jail-house lawyer routine, this finishes his legal career. The Order is here.

The Indy Star claimed [login required] it was the Disciplinary Commission that suspended him, but we know  that the Supreme Court keeps that power to itself. Durham still has a challenge to the suspension, but…

BTW, this is Durham’s second suspension, the first was due to failure to pay his annual registration fee last October.  Kirkland & Ellis, one of the biggest of BigLaw firms in Chicago, has decided to provide a pro bono appeal for Durham, according to the Indiana Business Journal. If you cannot pay registration for your license, you probably qualify for indigent services.Good to see the poor getting adequate legal representation to protect their rights. It worked so well for Mike Tyson.

Parenting Time changes

Two lawyers in my office have produced a short video on the changes in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. The changes go into effect on March 1.

You may want to watch, or link to it. Andy Perkins and Rachel Arndt did a nice job, here.

IndianaTalks.com Interview

Indy lawyer Stephen Terrell will be interviewing me this coming Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 9:00 pm on his weekly online “radio” show. Steve has been on-line for 3 weeks now, and has had some very interesting interviews.  You can listen by tuning your browser to http://www.indianatalks.com/.  Steve discusses information of the week, and then conducts his interview for much of the hour.

Don’t know what we will talk about, but Steve and I, while friends for a decade, disagree about most of the important things in life, and this will be my chance to show him the errors of his ways for you all to hear. Plans are to discuss law, politics and religion. Where could we disagree about any of these matters?

I only hope the Hoosiers have put the Gophers away by 9:00.

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Stay Current (redux):Taking one for the Team: Taking one from Court Staff

Stay Current (redux)

Several weeks ago I posted about the lawyer’s duty to Comply with the Rules,  all about keeping up on your payment of registration fees and attending mandatory CLE.  I should have posted it for Marion County (now) resident Susan Kriesel in 2008.

In 2008 Kriesel, a licensed attorney since 2002, was suspended for both issues, non-payment of dues and failure to comply with MCLE.  But so what?  She continued to practice, in a firm, for another three + years. Finally caught, she was charged and the Supreme Court Order accepted an agreed discipline she worked out with the Commission.

As punishment she got an indefinite suspension from the practice of law and a $250 fine, plus costs. The court questioned if the agreed punishment was sufficient, and after discussion of the serious consequences to Ms. Kriesel, decided it was sufficient 5-0. It is unlikely Ms. Kriesel will practice again.

In Georgia, a lawyer who was disbarred went on to impersonate another lawyer, and got a year in prison for Identity Theft. Different in some respects, but similar in several ways.

What role did the supervising attorney have in Ms. Kriesel’s case? Nothing appears on the Clerk’s docket at this time to suggest any disciplinary actions are pending.  Rule 5.1(a) seems to suggest that certain duties exist for the managing partner, and are implicated over this issue.

Also, no requirement of the refund of fees paid by clients, or of wages Kriesel earned during the three years is in the court’s Order, and no discussion of the Unauthorized Practice of Law issue that seems to be a part of the case. A discussion about UPL would have been a real help to the Indiana Bar.

Taking one for the team

It is tough enough being a public defender.  The client Lamarcus Williamson pleaded guilty to a “series of crimes” and when the judge throws the book at him, Williamson throws a sucker punch at his lawyer.  And the punched lawyer, Dan Hall, was covering the hearing for Williamson’s real PD, who had a conflict.

So you do a fellow lawyer a favor and get a bloody lip in the process.  Thanks Dan for taking one for the team.

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Now the Team takes one from the Court Staff

Beginning in 1991 a member of the court staff in Atlanta GA decided to set a misdemeanor criminal file aside, and not set it for follow-up or trial.  Twenty years later the stack grew to some 2000 misdemeanor cases.  Amazingly nobody (defendant, defense lawyer or prosecutor) noticed or complained that their case had not been resolved.

Most of the files were from 2008-2010, but some were considerably older. Not much the court could do but start setting things for hearing, and to allow prosecutors to dismiss.

Good for a court to have a clean out of the file closets and old file cabinets at least every quarter-century. When was the last time you cleaned out your file drawers?