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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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