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High court privately reprimands attorney

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The Indiana Supreme Court has privately reprimanded an attorney for improperly revealing information about a former client when socializing with friends.

The justices released the per curiam opinion Friday, In the Matter of: Anonymous, No. 18S00-0902-DI-73, in which they found the anonymous attorney violated Professional Conduct Rule 1.9(c)(2). The attorney represented an organization that employed “AB,” which is how the attorney became acquainted with her. AB and her husband were involved in an altercation, police were called, and her husband claimed AB threatened to harm him. A month later AB called the attorney, told her about the allegation, and that she had separated from her husband. In a second phone call later that month, AB asked the attorney for a referral to a family law attorney, which included the name of an attorney in the respondent’s firm.

AB retained that attorney and filed a divorce petition; the couple later reconciled and AB requested the petition be dismissed, which ended the firm’s representation of her.

When socializing with friends after this, one of which was also a friend of AB, the respondent told them about AB’s filing for divorce and her husband’s accusation. The respondent didn’t know AB had reconciled with her husband. The attorney also encouraged AB’s friend to contact AB because she was concerned. When AB learned what the attorney had said, she filed a grievance.

The attorney has no disciplinary history and was cooperative with the Disciplinary Commission.

The respondent argued to the hearing officer that AB initially gave her the information at issue to seek personal rather than professional advice, so the information wasn’t confidential and her later relationship with the firm didn’t change its nature. But the information was disclosed not long before the second phone call in which AB wanted an attorney referral, and she became at prospective client under Rule 1.18, which required confidentiality.

It also doesn’t matter that AB told this same information to some of her co-workers or that the information at issue could be discovered by searching various public records and the Internet.

“True, the filing of a divorce petition is a matter of public record, but Respondent revealed highly sensitive details of accusations AB's husband made against her to the police. There is no evidence that this information was contained in any public record,” the justices wrote. “An attorney has a duty to prospective, current, and former clients to scrupulously avoid revelation of such information, even if, as may have been the case here, the attorney is motivated by personal concern for the client.”
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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