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Disciplinary Actions - 7/17/13

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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
Noah Holcomb Jr., of Lake County, has been suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court for at least three years, per a June 28 order. Holcomb made 21 disbursements from his attorney trust account from November 2007 to March 2008 while his office’s operating account was levied by the IRS. These disbursements were not related to any client but for his benefit. In 1999, he failed to liquidate stock, redeem fully mature U.S. savings bonds and pay inheritance taxes as a representative for an unsupervised decedent’s estate. His failure to act resulted in losses for the estate. He also paid himself around $30,000 from the estate, most of which he did not earn.

Holcomb has violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.3, 1.5(a), 1.15(a), 1.15(c), 1.15(d), 8.4(b), 8.4(c) and 8.4(d); as well as Ind. Admission and Discipline Rules 23(29)(a)(2), 23(29)(a)(3), 23(29)(a)(4), and 23(29)(a)(5).

The costs of the proceeding are assessed against him. The justices noted Holcomb may have been disbarred had it not been for an agreement between Holcomb and the Disciplinary Commission. His suspension is without automatic reinstatement, and it begins Aug. 2. Justices David and Rush dissented, believing he should be disbarred.

Ronald E. Weldy, of Marion County, has been suspended for 180 days, with 90 days actively served and the remainder stayed subject to completing at least one year of probation, per a June 28 order. Six counts were filed against Weldy. In Count 1, he neglected his client on a wage claim action and failed to communicate with her, including not telling her his office moved. Her case had been dismissed under Ind. Trial Rule 41(E). In Count 2, he sought $8,000 from a settlement for attorney fees, which the client did not agree to. After the client filed for bankruptcy, Weldy served as attorney for the bankruptcy trustee and the bankruptcy court determined his fee for services.

In Count 3, he was hired to pursue a wage claim action and the client disputed the amount of attorney fees Weldy claimed after a settlement. In Count 4, he was hired to file a wage claim action and was terminated after making no progress for a year. He was later re-hired and mistakenly told the client that a motion for summary judgment had been filed. The case was dismissed under Trial Rule 41(E). In Count 5, he failed to respond to his client’s requests for information on a wage claim action, but the client hired him to represent her in a second action with no written fee agreement. The second claim settled and Weldy kept the settlement check and filed a small-claims action against her. The court ordered him to deposit the check with the court and he received a third of the amount. In Count 6, he agreed to represent a client in a proposed class action against Clarian Health Partners regarding alleged violations of Indiana’s wage and hour laws. He was sanctioned by the court for making untrue assertions during discovery. The client and Clarian settled, but Weldy continued pursuing the case. A petition filed by Clarian seeking $40,000 in attorney fees is still pending.

Weldy has violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), 1.4(a)(4), 1.4(b), 1.5(b), 1.5(c), 1.7(a)(2), 1.15(e), 1.16(a)(3), 3.1, 3.2, 3.3(a)(1), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).

His suspension begins Aug. 9. The justices noted his discipline may have been more severe had he not entered into an agreement with the Disciplinary Commission. The costs of the proceeding are assessed against Weldy. Chief Justice Dickson and Justice Rush dissent, believing the penalty is insufficient for the severity of the offense.

Public Reprimand
David J. Scott, of Henry County, received a public reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court June 28 for violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(b). Scott pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor charge of battery, which involved his wife and occurred in front of his minor children, and he was placed on probation for one year. He is remorseful, has completed his probation and is compliant with a monitoring agreement with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.

The costs of the proceeding are assessed against Scott.

Elden E. Stoops, of Wabash County, received a public reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court June 28 in two cases. The first case involved his representation of an uncle who sought custody of a child. Stoops sent copies of the papers he filed to the father but failed to serve them on or contact the father’s counsel of record. Counsel and Stoops later worked out an agreement regarding custody. In that case, he was found to have violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.5(b), 8.4(d) and 8.4(f).

In the second case, Stoops represented a grandmother and a half-brother who sought to be named co-guardians of the half-brother’s siblings. After difficulties developed between the half-brother, his girlfriend and the wards, Stoops filed on behalf of the grandmother a request that the half-brother be removed as co-guardian. The half-brother’s attorney believed this to be a conflict of interest. Another attorney entered an appearance on behalf of the grandmother, but it’s not clear whether Stoops ever withdrew his appearance for either the grandmother or half-brother. He violated Rule 1.7(a)(1) in this matter. The costs of the proceedings are assessed against him.

Resignation
John Carroll Eckert, of Jefferson County, has resigned from the bar, effectively immediately, per a June 28 order. Any disciplinary proceedings pending are dismissed as moot. He must wait five years to petition for reinstatement. The costs of the proceeding are assessed against Eckert.

Terminated Suspension

The suspension of Veronica M. Roby, of Madison County, for noncooperation with the Disciplinary Commission has been terminated by the Indiana Supreme Court, per a July 2 order. The suspension ended June 28, and Roby was reinstated to the practice of law as long as no other suspension is in effect. Her failure to pay any outstanding costs in this case by Oct. 1 will subject her to an order of suspension.

Reinstatement
The Indiana Supreme Court has reinstated Charles J. Rathburn Jr., of Allen County, effective July 2. Rathburn was suspended in 2006 and petitioned for reinstatement in February 2012. The Disciplinary Commission recommended that Rathburn not be reinstated because he had not met his burden of proof that he fully complied with the terms of the order for discipline. The Supreme Court denied his petition in April, but reinstated Rathburn after he filed a motion for reconsideration. The justices concluded that the noncompliance identified by the hearing officer and the commission should not bar his readmission.•

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