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Disciplinary Actions - 12/7/11

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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
Richard Loiseau, of Orlando, Fla., has been suspended from the practice of law for not less than 90 days, without automatic reinstatement, beginning Dec. 29, 2011, according to a Nov. 22 order from the Indiana Supreme Court. The court found Loiseau committed misconduct when handling an immigration case for a client who was later ordered to be deported. The court found the attorney failed to appear in court, lied in an affidavit about how he represented the client in court and later made a different statement during the disciplinary proceedings against him. Misconduct also occurred when the lawyer represented the same client’s husband in an asylum and deportation case in which Loiseau didn’t tell the immigration judge about the wife’s pending asylum proceeding before a different judge. Loiseau violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.3 by failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness when he failed to appear for two hearings; Rule 1.4(a)(3) when he failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter; 3.3(a)(1) on knowingly making a false statement to a tribunal; and Rule 8.4(c) that prohibits an attorney from knowingly engaging in dishonest, fraudulent or deceitful conduct. The court found no mitigators but cited Loiseau’s past public reprimand from 2002, that he engaged in a pattern of dishonesty and that he’s not remorseful or willing to accept responsibility.

James A. Earhart, of Louisville, Ky., has been suspended from the practice of law for 30 days, beginning Dec. 29, 2011. A Nov. 22 order from the Indiana Supreme Court imposed the sanction because of a client fee arrangement Earhart made in 2008. The lawyer was retained and paid $10,000 to represent a client against anticipated criminal charges. Earhart sent a letter confirming receipt of that initial, non-refundable fee and wrote that an additional fee in the same amount would be charged to represent the client through trial if charges were filed. The client killed himself a few days later, and despite performing no more than five hours of work, Earhart refused to refund the unearned portion of the amount to the client’s widow. The court found the client’s death so soon after retaining Earhart “clearly rendered at least a portion of the client’s $10,000 payment unearned.” Although the attorney refunded the full fee after this grievance was filed, the court didn’t find that to be a mitigating factor. It found his lack of disciplinary history is a mitigator. Earhart violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(a) on charging an unreasonable fee and Rule 1.16(d) on failing to refund an unearned fee upon termination of representation.

Public reprimand
Sean P. Hilgendorf, of St. Joseph County, received a public reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court Nov. 17, 2011. The court accepted a conditional agreement for discipline and found Hilgendorf committed misconduct by refusing to refund a $1,300 fee after a client informed him he had hired other counsel in a criminal case.

In that 2008 case, the lawyer refused to refund any of the fee until after the hearing officer set a final hearing date on this disciplinary matter. In 2009, Hilgendorf failed to notify a client about a Court of Appeals decision until after the deadline to file a rehearing petition. In a letter he stated no further appellate procedures were possible. The lawyer later found a previous letter that was dated a day after the appellate decision that had been misaddressed to the client and returned. The court found no aggravators and looked to a lack of disciplinary history, his cooperation and no intent to be dishonest. He violated 1.4(a)(3) on failing to keep a client reasonably informed; 1.4(b) on failure to explain a matter reasonably for a client to make a decision; and 1.16(d) on failure to refund any unearned portion of a fee after the representation ends.•
 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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