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Court suspends attorney for 30 days

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The Indiana Supreme Court has imposed a 30-day suspension against an Indianapolis attorney who was one of nearly three dozen people to recently apply for an opening on the state’s highest court.

Justices issued an order Thursday in the disciplinary action In the Matter of Curtis E. Shirley, No. 49S00-0712-DI-581, which was filed in late 2007 following several years of litigation where the conduct occurred. All but Justice Theodore R. Boehm participated in the action, suspending the attorney who’s been practicing since 1991.

The action stems from Shirley’s representation of a family-owned corporation years ago that led to internal disputes and conflicting representations, according to the Supreme Court order. The corporation was owned and controlled by members of a large family, which included an “elderly and incapacitated” matriarch, her son “AB” who controlled the day-to-day business operations, and six other siblings with interests in the corporation. In 2001, AB consulted with Shirley about voting control of the corporation and other issues, the order says. He then used that legal advice to obtain and exercise control, getting his mother’s signature on stock transfers, removing his siblings from the company’s governing board, terminating two from employment at the corporation, and defending suits brought against him from those siblings.

During the course of those proceedings, Shirley sought to have the corporation held in contempt of court despite his representing and collecting fees from the corporation.

“Respondent now agrees that these fees were unreasonable because he did not obtain the knowing consent of necessary principals of the Corporation to his simultaneous representation of the Corporation and AB, and the Corporation paid for a considerable amount of legal work that most likely accrued to AB’s sole benefit,” the order says. “The Corporation filed suit against AB and Respondent to recover the fees paid to Respondent, which suit was settled with a confidential agreement for an undisclosed amount.”

Specifically, Shirley was charged and found to have violated various provisions within the Indiana Professional Conduct Rules: 1.5(a) on charging an unreasonable fee; 1.7(a) and (b) in representing a client when the representation might be adverse to another client or be materially limited by the other client responsibilities; 1.13(b) on failing to proceed as reasonably necessary in the best interests of a represented organization if the lawyer knows someone associated with that organization is engaged in potentially harmful activity; 1.13(d) on failing to explain the identity of a client when it’s apparent the organization’s interests are adverse to those of the constituent; 1.13(e) on representing an organization and one of its constituents without obtaining consent from an appropriate official; and 1.16(a)(1) on failure to withdraw as counsel when representation will result in a violation of the conduct rules.

In determining the penalty and approving the agreement, the court found that Shirley has had no prior disciplinary actions, he has an extensive history of public service to charitable organizations and the bar that includes many pro bono clients, and that the corporation recovered a satisfactory amount of the attorney fees paid to him.

“From the beginning of (his) involvement with the Corporation, it should have been apparent that AB’s personal interests were at very least potentially adverse to those of the Corporation,” Chief Justice Randall Shepard wrote. “The actual conflict of interest that arose should have been apparent. Respondent’s ethical violations extended over several years to the considerable detriment of the Corporation. The discipline the Court would impose for Respondent’s misconduct would be more severe than the parties propose had this matter been submitted without an agreement.”

But with that agreement, Shirley’s history and a “desire to foster agreed resolutions of lawyer disciplinary cases,” the court approved and ordered the disciplinary sanction.

The suspension starts Sept. 17 for the attorney, who was one of 34 people to apply for a seat on the Indiana Supreme Court. Shirley didn’t make it past the initial round of interviews, and although he’d detailed the disciplinary action and this pending settlement agreement in his application, the matter didn’t come up during his July 7 interview before the Judicial Nominating Commission.
 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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