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. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  2. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  3. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  4. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  5. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?