ILNews

Lawyer suspended for conversion, lying

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court suspended a Vanderburgh County attorney today for at least three years for committing what the court describes as the most serious of ethical breaches.

The court came to its decision In the matter of: Douglas W. Patterson, No. 82S00-0402-DI-90, as a result of Douglas Patterson's conversion of client funds, deceit in concealing his misconduct, and dishonesty with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Patterson was an associate at a law firm which maintained a trust account. In 1999, Patterson and attorney Maurice Doll left the firm and started a new one. The new law firm continued to use the old firm's trust account until they established their own in May 2000.

Patterson continued to use the old trust account once the new one had been established. In August 2000, the new firm's bookkeeper discovered Patterson had written five checks to himself or on his behalf from that account in July 2000.

Patterson denied knowledge of the checks and didn't admit to writing the checks until Doll suggested they contact the police. Patterson claimed he only wrote checks out of that account in July 2000, but an audit later revealed he wrote checks to himself in April and May 2000.

Also, in January 2000, Patterson deposited his own funds into the trust account and then immediately wrote a check for the same amount to a church daycare center in order to reimburse the church for a tax debt it owed as a result of a mistake he made in handling its payroll.

Patterson eventually repaid the money he converted, most of which belonged to a single client.

When he appeared before the Disciplinary Commission, Patterson said he only wrote checks to himself in July 2000 and didn't know the funds belonged to clients, but he did admit he mixed client and personal funds in the daycare transaction. He argued the Disciplinary Commission failed to meet its burden of proof with respect to all other charges and asked for a consideration of mitigating factors.

The Supreme Court found overwhelming evidence of Patterson's conversion of funds in the trust account, that he lied when he said he didn't know the money in the account was client funds, and evidence supports the hearing officer's rejection of his credibility regarding this issue.

The high court concluded Patterson violated Professional Rules of Conduct 1.15(b), 8.4(b) and 8.4(c). Because the misconduct of converting client funds, deceit in concealing misconduct, and dishonesty with the Disciplinary Commission are among the most serious of ethical breaches, the court decided he should be suspended from the practice of law for at least three years beginning July 31.

After that time, he may be reinstated only if he pays the costs of this proceeding, fulfills his duties as a suspended attorney, and satisfies the requirements of Admission and Discipline Rule 23(4), including demonstrating genuine remorse.
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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