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Disciplinary Actions - 10/12/11

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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
James S. Dal Santo of Lake County has been suspended from the practice of law in Indiana for a period of 180 days, beginning Nov. 1, with 60 days actively served and the remainder stayed subject to completion of 18 months of probation. The suspension was made in a Supreme Court order issued Sept. 19, 2011. Dal Santo admitted numerous trust account violations from 2005 to 2009, which included writing checks that did not clear due to insufficient funds, allowing the balance to become negative, writing checks to “cash,” using trust funds for personal expenses and failure to keep proper records of his trust account. Dal Santo violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.15(a) by failing to safeguard property of clients, treating client funds as his own, and failing to maintain and preserve complete client trust account fund records; Rule 8.4(b), which prohibits committing a criminal act of conversion that reflects adversely on the lawyers honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer; Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(29)(a)(3-5) by failing to maintain and preserve trust fund records, comingling of trust funds with other attorney or firm money and making withdrawals from a trust account without written authorization or making withdrawals from those accounts by checks payable to “cash.” All justices concurred, except Justice Steven David who would reject the conditional agreement, believing the discipline is insufficient in light of the admitted misconduct.

Everett E. Powell, II of Marion County has been suspended from the practice of law in Indiana for a period of not less than 120 days, without automatic reinstatement, beginning Nov. 11. A per curiam order from the Supreme Court Sept. 29, 2011, concluded that Powell violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(a) by collecting a clearly unreasonable and exploitive fee from a vulnerable client. In 2004, Powell consulted with a woman and her boyfriend about access to a trust holding money she obtained from a settlement of a personal injury action. The woman had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and claimed to be in an abusive and controlling relationship, and another attorney declined to give her access to the trust account. She went to Powell, who agreed to a contingency fee of one-third of whatever was in the trust. As soon as he became successor trustee, Powell deposited a check that was intended to pay for medical bills into the trust and paid himself $14,815.55 as his fee. He gave the client nearly $30,000 and the remaining funds stayed in the account until bank fees depleted them.

Barbara L. Barkas of Marion County has been suspended from the practice of law, effective immediately, for noncooperation with the disciplinary commission in an investigation of a grievance filed against her. The suspension was issued by the Supreme Court Sept. 29, 2011. Barkas was already suspended for CLE noncompliance, effective June 20.

Stuart K. Baggerly of Monroe County has been suspended from the practice of law in Indiana for a period of 30 days, beginning Nov. 11, with automatic reinstatement. The Supreme Court issued the suspension in an order filed Sept. 30, 2011. A father retained Baggerly in 1998 to represent him and his daughters in seeking damages for injuries they sustained in a car accident. After Baggerly negotiated a settlement on the three claims, he lost or misplaced a $5,000 check he received in 2000 for one of the daughters and, during the next 10 to 11 years, failed to respond to the clients’ repeated requests for the money. A disciplinary action filed in June 2011 led to Baggerly paying the clients $8,000 by cashier’s check. Baggerly admitted to violating Rule 1.1: failure to provide competent representation; Rule 1.3: failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; 1.4(a): failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and respond promptly to reasonable requests for information; 1.15(a): failure to hold property of clients properly in trust; and 1.15(d): failure to deliver promptly to a client funds that person is entitled to receive.

Olubunmi O. Okanlami of St. Joseph County received an interim suspension from the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2011, effective 15 days from the date of the order and until further order from the court or a final resolution of any resulting disciplinary matter. The suspension comes after Okanlami was found guilty of felony battery and residential entry stemming from an incident in December 2010.

Resignation
Janet B. Mallett of Marion County has resigned from the bar, effective immediately by a Supreme Court order issued Sept. 19, 2011, pursuant to Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(17). The pending disciplinary action against her is dismissed as moot, and she will be ineligible to petition for reinstatement for five years according to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(4)(a).

Action Dismissed
Jacob A. Atanga of Marion County has had one disciplinary action dismissed by the Supreme Court. Atanga was suspended Aug. 19 for noncooperation with the disciplinary commission’s investigation of a grievance filed against him, and on Sept. 19, 2011, the commission filed a certificate of compliance stating that Atanga has cooperated with the investigation and that his suspension in this case should be revoked. Suspensions ordered in one or more other disciplinary actions remain in effect. He will not be listed as reinstated until all causes for suspension are cured.

Deborah D. Kubley of Monroe County has had one disciplinary action dismissed by the Supreme Court. She was suspended Dec. 27, 2010, for noncooperation with the disciplinary commission’s investigation of a grievance filed against her, and on Sept. 19 the commission filed a certificate of compliance stating that Kubley has now cooperated with the investigation and that her suspension in this case should be revoked. Suspensions ordered in one or more other disciplinary actions remain in effect. She will not be listed as reinstated until all causes for suspension are cured.

Contempt of Court
John L. Peak of Monroe County has been fined $500 in contempt of court for practicing law while suspended. The Supreme Court issued an order Sept. 30, 2011. The disciplinary commission asserted that Peak appeared in court March 29 on behalf of a client and again on June 28, following his June 2010 suspension for CLE noncompliance and dues nonpayment.•

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