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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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  1. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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