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Disciplinary Actions - 4/27/12

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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.

Contempt
Danny Ray Hill, of St. Joseph County, has been found in contempt of court by the Indiana Supreme Court for practicing law in Indiana while suspended. The justices ordered on March 30, 2012, that Hill pay $250 within 60 days of the order.

Hill was suspended indefinitely in Indiana in 2006; in 2008, he sent a letter to a couple in Illinois on letterhead with a South Bend address identifying himself as an attorney. He indicated that he had reviewed living trust and related documents prepared for the couple and advised them on the legality and effectiveness of the documents. Even though the couple was in Illinois, Hill’s actions were in Indiana.

Timothy D. Freeman, of Marion County, has been ordered by the Indiana Supreme Court to pay a $2,500 fine and disgorge a $500 retainer fee within 10 days of April 3, 2012, or he will be ordered to serve a 30-day imprisonment.

Freeman has been the subject of five show cause proceedings for noncooperation with the Disciplinary Commission. He has continued to practice law in seven cases after he was suspended. Justice Steven David believed a longer imprisonment should be required. Justice Mark Massa did not participate.

William J. Rawls, of Marion County, has been found guilty by the Indiana Supreme Court of indirect criminal contempt by practicing law while disbarred. In an April 10, 2012, order, the justices ordered Rawls be sentenced to seven days imprisonment in the Department of Correction, without the benefit of good time; and pay a $500 fine within 60 days of this order.

Rawls was disbarred Dec. 27, 2010, but in February 2011 he had completed an appearance on behalf of another attorney, signed the attorney’s name on the appearance form and placed the initials “BW” next to the signature. He did not respond to an order to show cause.

Suspension
Mark J. Thornburg, of Marion County, has been suspended for 90 days, all stayed subject to completion of 24 months of probation, per an April 10, 2012, order from the Indiana Supreme Court. The discipline is effective April 28.

Thornburg pleaded guilty shortly after passing the bar exam in 1998 to operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 to 0.15, a Class C misdemeanor. He reported the incident and was sworn in later that year. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated with endangerment. He notified the Disciplinary Commission of the conviction.

He violated Rule 8.4(b), but mitigating factors are that Thornburg met with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program shortly after his arrest, has no disciplinary history, and has been cooperative with the commission.

Reinstatement
Barbara L. Barkas, of Marion County, has been reinstated to the practice of law in Indiana as of April 3, 2012, per an order from the Indiana Supreme Court, as long as there are no other suspensions in effect. She had been suspended for failure to cooperate with a disciplinary case.•

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  1. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  2. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  3. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

  4. For some strange reason this story, like many on this ezine that question the powerful, seems to have been released in two formats. Prior format here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263 That observed, I must note that it is quite refreshing that denizens of the great unwashed (like me) can be allowed to openly question powerful elitists at ICE MILLER who are on the public dole like Selby. Kudos to those at this ezine who understand that they cannot be mere lapdogs to the powerful and corrupt, lest freedom bleed out. If you wonder why the Senator resisted Selby, consider reading the comments here for a theory: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263

  5. Why is it a crisis that people want to protect their rights themselves? The courts have a huge bias against people appearing on their own behalf and these judges and lawyers will face their maker one day and answer for their actions.

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