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Disciplinary Actions -1/6/12

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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
Lawrence T. Newman, of Marion County, has received an 18-month suspension without automatic reinstatement for violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.4(a)(4), 1.5(a), 1.16(a)(3) and 1.16(d) for failing to comply with a client’s reasonable requests for an accounting of the hours he worked prior to being discharged, by charging an unreasonable fee, by failing to withdraw from representation promptly after being discharged, and by failing to return the client’s file after its retention was no longer necessary to secure payment of the fee. The disciplinary action involves work that Newman did in helping to represent a client in disputes over the operation of a closely held corporation left by her father in his estate. An agreement said that Newman would be paid $195 an hour, payable upon receipt of the client’s distribution from the estate, plus 25 percent of the distribution. After a few weeks of representation, the client sent a letter asking the attorney to stop all work. She later terminated his employment and asked for an accounting of the legal work performed. But Newman filed a notice of his intent to hold an attorney’s lien on the client’s distribution for his hourly fee plus the 25 percent, and it took more than three years for the client to receive her file after being ordered to pay Newman about $8,500 for work he performed. Chief Justice Randall Shepard and Justices Brent Dickson and Frank Sullivan ordered the sanction in a per curiam opinion on Dec. 20, but Justice Robert Rucker disagreed with one of the alleged rule violations and would have opted for a 90-day suspension. Justice Steven David didn’t participate. The suspension begins Jan. 31, 2012.

John G. Clifton, of Allen County, has been suspended from the practice of law for 180 days, with automatic reinstatement, beginning Jan. 20, 2012. The Indiana Supreme Court ordered the suspension in a Dec. 8 order approving a conditional agreement with the Disciplinary Commission, finding that Clifton violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.1, 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 3.4(c) and 3.4(d) that involve failure to provide competent representation; failure to keep a client reasonably informed; failure to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions; knowingly disobeying a court’s rules; and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. Clifton admitted to seven counts of misconduct for indicating to the Allen County Public Defender’s Office in October 2006 that he was available to handle criminal appeals despite his inexperience in that area of law. During the course of a year, Clifton was appointed to represent seven criminal defendants. In these cases, he committed numerous violations of the appellate rules. In one case, he told his client the case couldn’t be appealed because the client entered into a plea agreement, when in fact the appeal had been dismissed for noncompliance with appellate rules. Clifton failed to heed warnings by the Court of Appeals pointing out deficiencies and caused additional, unnecessary work for the court and Indiana attorney general. The Supreme Court found that Clifton doesn’t have any disciplinary history, cooperated with the commission and has worked to correct his behavior.

Ryan L. Strup, of Marion County, has received a 90-day suspension from the practice of law for violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(b), which prohibits committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer. The Dec. 9 order from the Indiana Supreme Court involves Strup’s pleading guilty to Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated stemming from a November 2003 incident. That happened before Strup’s admission to the bar in 2005. He pleaded guilty to OWI based on a November 2010 incident, which led to self-reporting his arrest and entering into a monitoring agreement with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program that required he refrain from alcohol use. He failed two urine tests in March and May 2011, and in June, he admitted to his JLAP caseworker that he’d continued to consume alcohol despite the agreement. The Supreme Court approved the conditional agreement, finding that Strup has no disciplinary history, has completed a 30-day residential treatment program, continues with an aftercare program and is meeting regularly with a JLAP monitor for random drug screens. The suspension is stayed subject to the attorney’s completion of two years of probation, including JLAP monitoring.

Public reprimand
Martell B. Royer, of Lake County, has received a public reprimand for violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.3, 3.2 and 8.4(d) for failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; failure to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of a client; and for engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice (by disregarding the administration of the estate and inconveniencing the court and beneficiaries). In 2002, Royer represented an estate’s personal representative, and after some activity, the estate remained dormant until 2007 when the beneficiaries filed a petition for an order to show cause why the representative shouldn’t be removed. The representative failed to appear at a motion hearing and the court held her in contempt. Royer withdrew at the personal representative’s request in 2008. Royer has a public reprimand from 2002, but also has a long history of service to the personal representative and her family. The high court also noted that he advised the representative of her duties, that the representative was no longer cooperative with Royer after September 2002, didn’t respond to attempts to contact her and that Royer had no personal knowledge of any misconduct by the personal representative until the 2007 removal petition.

James R. Wiesneth Jr., of Vigo County, has received a public reprimand for violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.3, 1.4(a)(3) and (4) and 1.16(d) for failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and respond promptly to reasonable requests for information; and for failure to refund an unearned fee after being terminated and failure to return a client case file materials. The disciplinary action involves Wiesneth’s representation of a mortgage holder in 2009 regarding a debtor dispute about loan arrearage. The client paid a $1,500 flat fee for representation in a foreclosure action and the attorney failed to obtain services, neglected the case and failed to respond to numerous attempts of communication by the client. After the client discharged Wiesneth and retained new counsel, Wiesneth failed to refund any part of the flat fee and failed to turn over the complete case file to the new attorney. Wiesneth provided a letter and invoice to the client after this grievance was filed saying the entire flat fee had been earned despite not finishing the work, and it wasn’t until after the Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint did Wiesneth refund $900 of the fee. The commission found in mitigation that Wiesneth had no disciplinary history and accepted responsibility. In a Dec. 9 order, Justices Brent Dickson and Robert Rucker dissented with the sanction because they believe it’s insufficient in light of the attorney’s admitted misconduct.•
 

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  • How long is Newman Suspended?
    G. Michael Witte letter states he's suspended for three years. The case that got him suspended is identical to my estate case, including havin the Late Judge Deiter recuse himself because Newman had a conflict of interest with the judge. His Modus Operandi is nearly identical.
  • HUH?
    SIGNED BY G. MICHAEL WITTE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION DATED MAY 17, 2012.

    Your 6th complaint against Lawrence T. Newman filed on 4/12/2012. On 1/31/12, the Indiana Supreme Court entered an order suspending Lawrence T. Newman’s law license for a period of three years. More important, even after three years, Lawrence Todd Newman will not get his license back unless and until he goes through a separate proceeding to prove that he is fit to practice law. This is not an easy process, and the burden is upon Lawrence T. Newman to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is fit to return to practice.
    Because of the length of Lawrence T. Newman’s license suspension and the fact he may never succeed in getting his law license reinstated, we are not opening an investigation file at this time.
    Should Lawrence T. Newman seek reinstatement in the future, we will open your file and ask Lawrence T. Newman to address your grievance as part of his burden of proving fitness. We have attempted to notify Lawrence T. Newman that this will be required of him.
    It may disappoint you to hear that we will be doing nothing on your grievance at this time. However, the most our office can ever accomplish is to take away a lawyer’s license to practice law. We have already done that, albeit as a result of misconduct in cases other than your own. It makes better sense for our office to focus its limited resources on cases where the lawyers are still actively practicing law.
    • IS THERE ANY JUSTICE IN THE MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT CIVIL DIVISION?
      Is there any justice in the Marion County Superior Court Civil Division? I am the unfortunate victim of a retaliatory lawsuit brought by Lawrence Todd Newman, the attorney from an estate case on which I worked as a unsupervised personal representative in 2006. The contract agreement for that case stated that the estate would be responsible for all attorney fees, but Newman refused to close the nearly insolvent estate when my duties were complete and his fees were paid. Instead, he tried to extort additional attorney fees from me by keeping the case open to address a wrongful death claim, despite the estate’s heir’s lack of interest in pursuing it and an expert doctor’s opinion that it would not be worth doing so. He also knowingly deceived me into believing that a “closing statement” was needed to close the estate, even though this requirement had actually been waived by the estate’s heir. The heir’s attorney filed a motion to have Newman removed from the case. After the court closed the probate case with prejudice (barred from further litigation) Newman illegally re-opened the case in another courtroom.
      As a result of complaints filed against him for these and similar actions, Newman has been suspended from practicing law for 18 months by the Indiana Disciplinary Commission. In retaliation, he has filed suit against me demanding additional attorney fees for the 2006 estate case, despite the fact that I made no agreement stating that I would pay any fees from my own assets on behalf of the estate. This lawsuit violates the rules of ethics, due process of law, and equal protection of law. Newman has been allowed to file ridiculous pleadings at an alarming rate and has been supported by a biased court system. Judge Carroll refuses to recuse himself from the case despite the fact that, by his own admission, he intends to grant Newman sanctions regardless of the evidence. When my former counsel discovered that the previous judge on the case, Judge Sosin, was a long-time close friend of Newman’s family, Judge Carroll commented for the record during a hearing that Judge Sosin in so many words “he finds the door “was weak for recusing himself from the case as a result of this obvious conflict of interest.
      This case is a public policy issue. Statutes put in place to protect unsupervised personal representatives in probate matters are being ignored. This case will affect thousands of individuals involved in probating and the personal representation of estates. Justice cannot possibly be served as long as a biased judge is allowed to defend a “vexatious litigant,” as Newman has been described by Judge Logan in Bradenton, Florida court. If there is any justice in the Marion County Superior Court Civil Division, this case against me will be dismissed with prejudice.

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    1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

    2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

    3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

    4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

    5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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