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Disciplinary Actions - 3/12/14

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Indiana Lawyer Disciplinary Actions

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission brings charges against attorneys who have violated the state’s rules for admission to the bar and Rules of Professional Conduct. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brings charges against judges, judicial officers, or judicial candidates for misconduct. Details of attorneys’ and judges’ actions for which they are being disciplined by the Supreme Court will be included unless they are not a matter of public record under the court’s rules.

Removal from bench
Kimberly Brown, of Marion Superior Court, has been removed from the bench, per a March 4 order. The justices found she “engaged in significant judicial misconduct.” Justice Rucker concurred in part, believing a 60-day suspension without pay followed by a stay of her removal through a period of supervised probation was a better sanction. See story on page 4.

Termination of Suspension
David J. Sokolowski, of Elkhart County, has had his suspension for noncooperation terminated, per a Feb. 13 order. He is to be reinstated as long as no other suspension is in effect.

Suspension
Joseph C. Lehman, of Elkhart County, has been suspended for no less than two years, without automatic reinstatement, per a Feb. 19 order. The suspension begins April 3. Lehman was charged with five counts, which includes throwing client files with confidential information into a trash bin. The files were found by a newspaper reporter. He also failed to appear at numerous hearings in other cases and was sometimes jailed for such failures, as well as incorrectly handling client cases. Lehman also comingled client and attorney funds.

Judges before whom Lehman practices testified that he has consistently practiced far below the average level of performance for Elkhart County attorneys, his deficiencies have created a tremendous amount of trouble for court staff, and his conduct hurts clients and the court system.

The Supreme Court found Lehman violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.1; 1.2(a); 1.6(a); 1.9(c)(2); 1.15(a); and 8.4(d), as well as Ind. Admission and Discipline Rules 23(29)(a)(2), (3) and (4). The costs of the proceeding are assessed against him.

David Wyser, of Madison County, was suspended Feb. 26 by the Indiana Supreme Court because Wyser has pleaded guilty to a felony. The suspension came three months after the Indiana Disciplinary Commission transmitted orders and requested Wyser’s suspension following his guilty plea in July to accepting a $2,500 bribe in exchange for facilitating the early release of a woman sentenced in the murder-for-hire of her husband. Wyser was sentenced to three years of probation. The interim suspension remains in effect until further order of the court. Justice Massa did not participate.•

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  1. Bill Satterlee is, indeed, a true jazz aficionado. Part of my legal career was spent as an associate attorney with Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso. Bill was instrumental (no pun intended) in introducing me to jazz music, thereby fostering my love for this genre. We would, occasionally, travel to Chicago on weekends and sit in on some outstanding jazz sessions at Andy's on Hubbard Street. Had it not been for Bill's love of jazz music, I never would have had the good fortune of hearing it played live at Andy's. And, most likely, I might never have begun listening to it as much as I do. Thanks, Bill.

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  3. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  4. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  5. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

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