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Court sanctions Indianapolis attorney

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An Indianapolis attorney has received a public reprimand in the third and final leg of a yearlong disciplinary triangle, which has led to a Marion Superior judge's suspension and a commissioner's resignation and banishment from the bench.

In an order dated March 13, a split Indiana Supreme Court voted 3-2 to issue a public reprimand to Carolyn W. Rader as part of a conditional agreement in the disciplinary action against her. Justice Frank Sullivan would have rejected the agreement because he finds the sanction insufficient, while Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wanted a short suspension.

The court decided that Rader violated Professional Conduct Rule 1.4(a)(2), which requires a lawyer to consult reasonably with a client about the means by which the client's objectives are being accomplished. The Disciplinary Commission filed charges against Rader in July, about three months after the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission had filed misconduct charges against Marion Superior Judge Grant W. Hawkins and his then-commissioner Nancy Broyles relating to the same post-conviction case.

All three actions came as a result of the legal drama involving Harold Buntin, who spent 22 months in prison after DNA evidence had cleared him of a 1984 rape. He'd petitioned for relief in 1998 based on DNA evidence that wasn't available during his trial that he hoped would clear him; it eventually did in 2005. But Broyles took that case under advisement after a March 2005 hearing and ultimately didn't rule on it for more than a year. When Buntin received no word from the court or his attorney Rader, despite his and his family's repeated attempts to get an answer, he contacted the commission to investigate the reason for the delay in early 2007.

The judicial disciplinary commission investigated and discovered that Judge Hawkins' lack of court supervision resulted in case delays leading to Buntin's longer incarceration, while Broyles had a history of delays on this and other post-conviction cases.

She resigned last year and has been permanently banned from the bench as a result of this case. A divided Indiana Supreme Court last week decided an unpaid suspension was the most appropriate sanction for Judge Hawkins.

Now, Rader receives a public reprimand that two of the justices find to be inadequate.

"While the judge and magistrate who held the matter under advisement for two years bear the principal responsibility, Respondent's stewardship of the client's interest was a part of the overall fault," Chief Justice Shepard wrote. "My colleagues say that there is no way to know whether this failure to communicate with her client Harold Buntin and his family would have hastened a ruling and shortened the time wrongly spent in prison. I would like to think that the Court is wrong about that, and that a reasonable responsiveness to the client would have led to use of the tools available for obtaining a ruling."

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