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Disciplinary Actions -1/20/12

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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
Delmar P. Kuchaes, of Lake County, has been suspended from the practice of law for 180 days with automatic reinstatement, beginning Feb. 17, 2012. The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Jan. 5, which involves the attorney’s conduct on a case that began in 1993. He filed a lawsuit in state court against a vaccine maker and its parent company on behalf of a woman allegedly injured by a polio vaccine and her husband for loss of consortium. Kuchaes requested that the case be voluntarily dismissed after learning that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act applied and a federal suit could be filed, and he dismissed the husband’s claim after learning the loss of consortium claims aren’t compensable under the federal act. Kuchaes obtained $1 million for the woman in 1998 in that federal case, and then he reopened the state court case on the husband’s claims but didn’t notify the defendants. In 2000, he moved for default judgment, stating the defendants hadn’t appeared or answered the complaint despite the case being dismissed prior to the response deadline. He obtained a $5 million default judgment and initiated garnishment proceedings in 2004, but up until that point hadn’t notified the defendants of the revived state court action required by Trial Rule 5(A). The state case was eventually removed to federal court, where the default judgment was set aside and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, sanctioned Kuchaes for bringing a frivolous appeal and ordered him to pay almost $58,000 for the defendants’ attorney fees. The Indiana Supreme Court found Kuchaes has no disciplinary history and he now acknowledges the argument about the state court case dismissal was untenable. The court found he violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.1, 3.3(a), 3.4(c), 3.5(b) and 8.4(d) involving his frivolous assertion, knowingly making a misleading statement, knowingly disobeying a court obligation, engaging in an improper ex parte communication with a court and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Public reprimand
David B. LeBeau, of Allen County, has received a public reprimand, by order of the Indiana Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2012. The justices approved a conditional disciplinary agreement with the Disciplinary Commission that stems from LeBeau’s arrest for marijuana possession on Aug. 1, 2009, and his entering into a diversion program. An Allen County deputy prosecutor at the time, LeBeau was discharged from his position shortly after his arrest. LeBeau violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 8.4(b) on committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty and trustworthiness, and Rule 8.4(d) on engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. The justices agreed a reprimand was appropriate after finding mitigating factors that included no disciplinary history, LeBeau’s cooperation and his subsequent evaluation by the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program that found no evidence of addiction or substance abuse.

Contempt of Court
Stephen P. Wolfe, of Grant County, was held in contempt of court and fined $500 by the Indiana Supreme Court, according to an order issued Dec. 20, 2011. The court issued an interim suspension in July after Wolfe was found guilty of three Class D felony theft counts. At the time, the attorney was already suspended for nonpayment of his annual registration fee. In October, the Disciplinary Commission filed a petition for Wolfe to show why he should not be held in contempt for violating his suspension based on accusations that he engaged in the practice of law in court on Sept. 28, 2011. He responded in writing that he intended to accompany a friend and former client to court as a witness, but he then “reverted back to his attorney ways and began actually representing [his friend] at the hearing.” Finding that Wolfe’s violation appears to be limited to a single, now-completed event, a three-justice majority determined a $500 fine to be paid by the end of February was sufficient. Chief Justice Randall Shepard and Justice Steven David dissented in part regarding the sanction and would have imposed both a $500 fine and five days of incarceration.

Resignation
Peter H. Rosenthal, of Marion County, has resigned from the Indiana bar, effective Jan. 5, 2012. The Indiana Supreme Court published an order accepting the resignation, pursuant to Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(17). The court ordered that any attorney disciplinary proceedings pending against Rosenthal are dismissed as moot, and Rosenthal will be ineligible for reinstatement for five years.

Suspension Terminated
Stanley Kahn, of Marion County, has had his suspension from the practice of law terminated by the Indiana Supreme Court in an order dated Jan. 3, 2012. The suspension had been imposed Dec. 8, 2011, as a result of Kahn’s noncooperation with the Disciplinary Commission into a grievance investigation. The commission filed a certificate of compliance Dec. 30 finding that Kahn had cooperated and should no longer be suspended, and the court lifted the suspension on Dec. 30, 2011.•
 

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