ILNews

Split court chooses suspension, not disbarment

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The Indiana Supreme Court today suspended a Bloomington attorney for at least three years, though the chief justice and another justice wanted disbarment because this is the lawyer's fourth disciplinary proceeding since being admitted in 1970.

The disciplinary decision came in the form of an 11-page per curiam opinion, In the Matter of David J. Colman, No 53S00-0607-DI-248. The court found that Colman engaged in attorney misconduct in several estate planning tasks: by participating in preparation of a will for a non-relative that would have given him or his son a substantial gift; by representing a client when there was a conflict of interest due to Colman's personal interests; by failing to hold property of a client separate from his own; by failing to keep a client's funds in a clearly identified trust account; by entering into an improper business transaction with a client; and by charging an unreasonable fee.

For the misconduct charges, the court suspended Colman for at least three years starting July 1, but Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Brent Dickson dissented as to the sanctions in separate opinions.

Both noted that Colman's pattern of misconduct shows a more serious sanction is warranted, since he had been readmitted in the past following a "very substantial federal tax evasion, a federal felony conviction, and an 18-month suspension" of his law license.

"It is difficult to imagine that any future expressions of remorse about these actions could be persuasive, such that readmission might occur," the chief justice wrote. "And, it is hard to fashion an argument for the public that Respondent's behavior has been such that we might at some future date want, again, to tell clients they can entrust their own dearest matters to him. I thus vote to disbar."

Justice Dickson noted that when Colman was convicted of a federal tax evasion felony in 1996, he was part of the unanimous vote on the court not to disbar the attorney but to suspend him for a substantial time before he was eventually reinstated in 1999.

"On reflection, I should have, but did not, dissent to these per curiam decisions," Justice Dickson wrote. "I choose, however, not to make the same mistake a third time, and agree with Chief Justice Shepard that the respondent should be disbarred for his misconduct."
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  1. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  2. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  3. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

  4. I am one of Steele's victims and was taken for $6,000. I want my money back due to him doing nothing for me. I filed for divorce after a 16 year marriage and lost everything. My kids, my home, cars, money, pension. Every attorney I have talked to is not willing to help me. What can I do? I was told i can file a civil suit but you have to have all of Steelers info that I don't have. Of someone can please help me or tell me what info I need would be great.

  5. It would appear that news breaking on Drudge from the Hoosier state (link below) ties back to this Hoosier story from the beginning of the recent police disrespect period .... MCBA president Cassandra Bentley McNair issued the statement on behalf of the association Dec. 1. The association said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. “The MCBA does not believe this was a just outcome to this process, and is disheartened that the system we as lawyers are intended to uphold failed the African-American community in such a way,” the association stated. “This situation is not just about the death of Michael Brown, but the thousands of other African-Americans who are disproportionately targeted and killed by police officers.” http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2016/07/18/hate-cops-sign-prompts-controversy/87242664/

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