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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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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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