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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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