ILNews

Court: Michigan lawyer to stay away for 2 years

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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An embattled Michigan attorney is barred for two years from taking any new cases in Hoosier courts, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.

Justices issued a per curiam opinion today in disciplinary action In the Matter of Geoffrey N. Fieger, No. 98S00-0609-DI-340, finding the attorney committed misconduct by making material misrepresentations in a sworn application for temporary admission to St. Joseph Circuit Court in late 2005. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Theodore Boehm and Robert Rucker agreed on the two-year penalty. Justice Brent Dickson wanted to bar Geoffrey Fieger permanently, while Justice Frank Sullivan opted to follow the conclusion of a hearing officer who'd found in favor of the attorney.

The Indiana Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint in late 2006 against Fieger, who isn't regularly admitted to practice here but has sought temporary admission at times - including earlier this year when he handled a federal trial in Indianapolis involving a Ball State University shooting.

Fieger was accused of violating state ethical rules by lying about past or then-present disciplinary actions against him in other jurisdictions, something that was asked when he applied for limited admission to the Indiana bar for a criminal case.

Fieger has been licensed in Michigan, Arizona, and Florida since 1980. He asked to be admitted as pro hac vice as co-counsel for a plaintiff in St. Joseph County, admitting under oath that "formal" disciplinary proceedings were not presently pending against him anywhere. However, he had a disciplinary action appeal pending before the Michigan Supreme Court at the time, his Arizona license had remained suspended since 1993 for not meeting mandatory continuing legal education requirements, and other ethical violation accusations had resulted in his censure elsewhere.

In today's Indiana action, justices chastised Fieger for trying to manipulate the rules and use technicalities to disguise his disclosure inadequacies - such as adding the word "formal" to the language of the disclosure rule to protect himself from a charge of dishonesty in unfiled complaints; and that no "proceedings" were underway.

"In any case, the change in wording shows Respondent gave careful consideration to the scope of his duty to disclose and chose not to mention the Michigan action," the opinion states about both examples. "There is nothing in the rule or Indiana law to suggest that the term (proceeding) can be interpreted to include loopholes of any sort. Respondent had no authority to alter the language required by the Disclosure Rule to narrow its scope or create a loophole."

In issuing its sanction, the court relied on Matter of Fletcher, 694 N.E.2d 1143 (Ind. 1998) that involved a temporarily admitted attorney misleading a judge that clients weren't at a location when deputies attempted to serve them there. That penalty was two years, also.

Fieger rose to prominence in the 1990s as suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian's lawyer. He has since risen to the status as a millionaire attorney and leader of a high profile firm specializing in personal injury suits. He unsuccessfully ran for Michigan governor in 1998. His latest stretch of disciplinary actions that were ultimately reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court involved comments he made on his public radio show comparing some of that state's appellate judges as "Nazis" for ruling against him in a case.

The Indiana disciplinary sanction comes at the same time Fieger faces federal campaign contribution charges in U.S. District Court in Detroit. He and his law firm partner are accused of paying employees "bonuses" to cover contributions made by others to Democrat John Edwards in the 2004 presidential campaign. That trial has been ongoing for 18 days and is expected to go to a jury next week.
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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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