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Disciplinary Actions - 5/22/13

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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.

Suspension
Jeffery K. Fetters, of LaGrange County, has been suspended for at least six months by the Indiana Supreme Court for violating five Indiana Professional Conduct Rules, per a May 7 order.

The justices found Fetters violated Rules 1.2(a): failure to abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation; 1.3: failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; 1.4(a)(3): failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter;1.4(b): failure to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions; and 8.1(a): knowingly making a false statement of material fact to the Disciplinary Commission in connection with a disciplinary matter.

The charges stem from Fetters’ representation of a client in a landlord-tenant dispute. Fetters did not inform his client that a default judgment of $6,089 had been entered against the client, said he would appeal, and then took no action. He later refused to talk with his client when the client called.

The justices also pointed out that Fetters did not follow the proper procedure for filing pleadings with the Supreme Court regarding this verified complaint. Fetters has been suspended since June 2010 for nonpayment of dues and CLE noncompliance. The costs of the proceedings are assessed against him.

Gordon B. Dempsey, of Marion County, has been suspended for three years by the Indiana Supreme Court for conduct that “far exceeded zealous advocacy and included repeated abuse of the tools of the legal system.”

The justices issued the suspension in a May 2 order, deciding that Dempsey must petition for reinstatement. Justice Steven David voted for disbarment.

The suspension comes after the Supreme Court found Dempsey violated three Indiana Professional Conduct Rules: 3.1: asserting a position for which there is no non-frivolous basis in law or fact; 4.4: using means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person; 8.4(g): engaging in conduct that was not legitimate advocacy, in a professional capacity, manifesting bias or prejudice based upon race, religion, and disability (mental condition).

The suspension stems from Dempsey, as a buyer of a multi-unit residential property in 1999, failing to pay on the contract and later initiating appeals in the foreclosure action and in a bankruptcy case involving the purchase of the property. Ten years later, he handed out flyers in Indianapolis calling the unnamed sellers “slumlords,” and made disparaging remarks about the sellers’ attorneys and Jews generally.

“Respondent’s history of unethical litigation practices, his continued attacks on those involved in the bankruptcy and foreclosure actions and in this disciplinary proceeding, the virulent bigotry he has manifested in these proceedings, and his lack of any insight into his misconduct suggest that disbarment may be justified. Nevertheless, a majority of this Court has decided not to close the door permanently on the possibility of Respondent’s professional rehabilitation. The Court will therefore impose a substantial suspension, after which Respondent may choose to undergo a rigorous reinstatement process to prove his understanding of his ethical duties and remorse before resuming practice,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote in the order.

Although Dempsey has no formal disciplinary history, he has been admonished and sanctioned in other proceedings for misstating facts, ignoring court rulings, committing egregious rule violations and asserting meritless claims, according to the order.

Dempsey was admitted to practice in Indiana in 1974. His suspension takes effect June 12, and the costs of the proceeding are assessed against him.

Public reprimand
Tammy R. Davis, of Franklin County, who made statements regarding Franklin Circuit Judge Steven Cox’s release of a prisoner during the time she was challenging him for his spot on the bench last fall, cannot seek judicial office for five years, the Indiana Supreme Court decided in a May 7 order. The justices also publicly reprimanded her.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed seven disciplinary charges against Davis, alleging she made statements she knew were inaccurate about Cox’s modification of a sentence that led to the release of David Ison to probation in 2010. Ison was recently convicted and sentenced for the September 2011 murders of five people. He also committed armed robbery in Ohio in February 2011.

Three examples of Davis’ conduct warranted her discipline. The ICJQ said Davis left voters with the mistaken impression that Ison would still have been in jail and couldn’t have committed certain crimes, that Cox and Ison are friends, and that Cox “worked for (Ison) for free.”

The commission told Davis in August 2012 that an ethical complaint had been lodged against her because of her campaign statements and that she should publicly retract the misinformation. Davis instead continued to post to her campaign website implying that Ison would have been in jail and not committed the Ohio crime if Cox hadn’t modified his sentence.

Davis and the ICJQ entered into an agreement in April regarding what her discipline should be, as the parties agreed Davis violated Rule 4.2(A)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The justices accepted the settlement agreement and dismissed counts 1, 4 and 7 of the complaint. Davis may not seek judicial office until after May 7, 2018, and she is publicly reprimanded for her conduct.

The order also allowed the commission to replace its original Count 2 with an amended Count 2. The costs of the proceedings are assessed against Davis.

Resignation
Juan Carlos Garcia Jr., of Elkhart County, has resigned from the bar, effective immediately, per a May 7 order. His resignation comes following a “notice of guilty finding and request for suspension” against him filed March 14. Any pending disciplinary actions are dismissed, and Garcia Jr. must wait five years before petitioning for reinstatement. The costs of the proceeding are assessed against him.•

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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