Daily News -- Sept. 25, 2013 issue

September 23, 2013
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Friends and family honor IBF Legendary Lawyer Henry Ryder

The reception honoring retired Indianapolis attorney Henry Ryder included lots of stories.

About 120 friends, family and colleagues gathered at the downtown office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP to recognize Ryder on his selection to receive the Indiana Bar Foundation’s 2013 Legendary Lawyer Award.

ryder Ryder

Before Ryder was presented with the plaque, attorneys told stories about how they met him, different aspects of his life, his ability to sing Purdue University’s Alma Mater and how he convinced them to serve on boards.

They also acknowledged his distinguished career. Samuel “Chic” Born said as an attorney Ryder was known from the Ohio River to the shores of Lake Michigan and up and down the banks of the Wabash.

“You’re a successful man. You’re an honorable man. You’re a good and faithful servant,” Born said. “I’m glad you’re my friend.”

Ryder practiced law for 54 years before retiring a partner and of counsel at Barnes & Thornburg. In 1960, he and William Roberts founded the firm Roberts & Ryder where Ryder focused his practice on labor and employment law.

Along with practicing law, Ryder served as a trustee for Purdue University and Hanover College and he helped found PRIDE (Peaceful Response to Indianapolis Desegregated Education), an organization whose mission was to bring equal opportunity into schools during the desegregation era.

Ryder’s son, David, an attorney in Washington state, told stories detailing the adventures of growing up in the Ryder household. He pointed out that stories – myths even – can build up around individuals dubbed “legends,” but his dad stands up to the scrutiny.

“I’m so proud of you dad and proud to call you my dad,” he said.

 AG seeks to reinstate misconduct charges against former IURC chief

The former head of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission could again face criminal charges in connection with his alleged actions surrounding Duke Energy’s Edwardsport power plant in 2010.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Sept. 9 that his office has filed an appeal to the dismissal of official misconduct charges against David Lott Hardy. The attorney general is asking the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the official misconduct charges against Hardy and reinstate them.

zoeller-greg.jpg Zoeller

Zoeller’s office argued that the Marion County Superior Court was wrong in ruling that the 2012 amendment to Indiana’s misconduct statute was retroactive.

“We respect the trial court but contend its ruling is incorrect, the 2012 change is not retroactive and the defendant can and should face charges under the law in effect in 2010,” Zoeller stated in a press release. “We ask the Court of Appeals to reinstate the charges so that the trial can proceed and a verdict can be rendered.”

Hardy’s attorney David Hensel, of Pence Hensel LLC, could not be reached for comment.

Hardy was indicted by a Marion County grand jury in 2011 on four counts of Class D felony official misconduct. He was accused of lobbying Duke Energy to hire then IURC administrative law judge Scott Storms, and of having ex parte communications with the power company about the Edwardsport plant in 2010.

On Aug. 12, Marion Superior Judge William Nelson granted Hardy’s motion to dismiss all charges. Nelson held the Indiana General Assembly’s changes to the criminal official misconduct statute which became effective July 1, 2012, were meant to be retroactive.

Man who bilked banks of $10 million sentenced

A southern Indiana man who defrauded Indiana banks of more than $10 million by supplying bogus financial information from family members to obtain multi-million-dollar loans for real estate, an airplane and a yacht will spend five years in federal prison.

Todd Van Natta of Seymour and Columbus also was ordered to pay almost $7 million in restitution after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of bank fraud and two counts of tax fraud. U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence of the Southern District of Indiana imposed sentence.

Van Natta was the president and manager of the Seymour-based Van Natta Asset Management, LLC, along with a variety of related companies, according to a statement from the office of Joe Hogsett, U.S. attorney for the Southern District. Van Natta’s company was involved in commercial and residential real estate projects, as well as the aviation business.

Van Natta was accused in July of devising a scheme to defraud financial institutions from 2007 to 2009, obtaining large sums of money by preparing and submitting numerous false documents to banks throughout central and southern Indiana, including local financial institutions headquartered in Bartholomew, Decatur, Washington, Morgan and Monroe counties.

The documents included tax returns and were used to obtain loans, including two loans of more than $3 million for property in Evansville and multiple parcels in Fort Wayne, as well as a $2.1 million bank note for properties in Seymour. He also got bogus six-figure loans to buy a 1970 Cessna Aircraft and a 2007 Fantasy yacht, according to Hogsett’s office.

Van Natta also defrauded a Utah resident of thousands of dollars by falsely claiming he owned an airplane listed for sale.

The government has moved to seize Van Natta’s assets gained by criminal activity. Senior litigation counsel Steven D. DeBrota and Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryAnn Mindrum prosecuted the case that resulted from an investigation that included the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.  

Judge: Suit challenging Marion County judicial slating may proceed

A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that has given rise to the Democratic and Republican slating system under which Marion Superior judges are elected will go forward.

Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana this month denied a motion to dismiss brought by state officials and interests named in a suit brought by Common Cause and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

Common Cause, a nonpartisan group whose mission is to promote open, honest government and voting rights, seeks an injunction against enforcement of Indiana Code 33-33-49-13. The suit says that law, which sets forth the process for electing judges in the Marion Superior Courts, is “unique in Indiana, and perhaps in the nation.”

“Common Cause has Article III and prudential standing to bring its claim; the Defendants are not immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment; and Common Cause states a plausible claim for relief,” Young wrote in the Sept. 6 order.

Slating of Marion Superior judge races has drawn criticism because each candidate who earned the party’s endorsement on the primary ballot paid identical amounts to the county party before his or her party’s slating convention prior to the primary. For Democrats, the contribution was $13,100; for Republicans, it was $12,000, according to a review of campaign contributions last year by Indiana Lawyer.  

The statute all but guarantees an equal split of Marion Superior judgeships for Democratic and Republican candidates. For the current 20 judgeships, each party may nominate 10 candidates for the general election, and voters may select 10 from each party. Unslated candidates rarely win, and Young noted that while candidates may run as independents or as third-party candidates, no one has since 2002.

Young’s ruling rejected state arguments to remove parties to the case and that the complaint was of a type more appropriately addressed in the Legislature. In rejecting the state’s argument on standing, he wrote, “Instead, Common Cause brings a constitutional challenge involving its members’ and other Marion County voters’ First Amendment right to cast a meaningful vote for Marion Superior Court judge.”

The state’s argument on failure to state a claim also was unpersuasive. “Although Indiana’s ballot access statute … has been found constitutionally adequate … the court is not convinced that the statute’s constitutionality with respect to a candidate’s access to the ballot applies here with equal force, where the claim is not ballot access, but whether a citizen’s vote in the general election matters.”•


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise