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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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