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Attorney suspended for taking client’s children from school for hours

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A Morgan County attorney who picked up children from school on behalf of their father, who she was representing, and drove them around for several hours without notifying the custodial mother was suspended for six months.

The Indiana Supreme Court ordered Cecelia Hemphill of Martinsville suspended from the practice of law effective Sept. 7 without automatic reinstatement.

According to the court’s order, Hemphill said she concluded that the mother’s boyfriend had molested her client’s 8-year-old daughter and needed to speak to the child and her brother alone.

Hemphill went to the child’s school and told the secretary that if the father had the right to pick them up, the secretary had to release them to her because she was his attorney and he asked her to pick up the children, according to the discipline order. The secretary refused at first but felt intimidated and eventually relented, the order said. She became worried and notified the school superintendent, who told the Morgan County sheriff.

“When the sheriff told mother what had happened, she was terrified and became more upset as the evening wore on,” the order said.

Hemphill called the children’s sitter and said she had the children and was meeting the father for dinner with the kids but didn’t say where she or the children were, according to the order. After that dinner, the father left and the children stayed with Hemphill.

Hemphill “drove with the children through the back roads around Martinsville, looking for a birthday party (the daughter) had been invited to attend, relying on the children for directions. (Hemphill’s) cell phone had died and she was low on gas,” according to the order. Despite stopping at several houses, Hemphill couldn’t locate the party and returned the children to their mother at about 8:45 p.m., about six hours after taking them from school.

The court concluded that Hemphill violated Rules of Professional Conduct 4.4(a): using means in representing a client that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person; and 8.4(d): engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

“No legitimate purpose was served by … insisting that the secretary release the children from school and driving them around for several hours without telling mother where they were,” the order stated. It said Hemphill “lacks any insight into why her conduct was wrong, maintaining that she did the right thing because she was serving a higher purpose of protecting the safety of the children. Convincing evidence was presented that this incident was not an isolated lapse.”

“Indiana has laws and procedures to deal with allegations of abuse, as well as agencies specifically designed to, charged with, and trained to deal with such allegations,” the order said, noting that Hemphill “took matters into her own hands and acted precipitously in disregard for the laws and agencies designed to deal with allegations of child abuse.”

 

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  1. Bill Satterlee is, indeed, a true jazz aficionado. Part of my legal career was spent as an associate attorney with Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso. Bill was instrumental (no pun intended) in introducing me to jazz music, thereby fostering my love for this genre. We would, occasionally, travel to Chicago on weekends and sit in on some outstanding jazz sessions at Andy's on Hubbard Street. Had it not been for Bill's love of jazz music, I never would have had the good fortune of hearing it played live at Andy's. And, most likely, I might never have begun listening to it as much as I do. Thanks, Bill.

  2. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  3. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  4. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  5. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

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