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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

    2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

    3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

    4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

    5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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