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Disciplinary Actions - 7/21

July 21, 2010
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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.

License revocation
Christopher A. Atkinson, Indiana Attorney No. 26769-41, was conditionally admitted to the Indiana bar on May 21, 2007. Because Atkinson did not abide by the terms of his conditional admission, his license to practice law in Indiana has been revoked, effective with the July 6, 2010, Supreme Court order.

The Indiana State Board of Law Examiners permitted his admission pursuant to a consent agreement, which Atkinson signed May 16, 2007, that conditioned his law license on, among other things, his entering into and complying with a monitoring agreement with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. The consent agreement – which was to remain in effect for two years – also required Atkinson to submit quarterly reports from JLAP to the BLE by Sept. 30, Dec. 31, March 31, and June 30 showing his compliance with the terms of the consent and monitoring agreements.

Less than three months after signing the consent agreement, Atkinson placed his law license on inactive status, see Ind. Admis. and Disc. R. 2(c), and then sent a letter to the BLE informing it that he had decided to place his license on inactive status and to withdraw from JLAP monitoring “based on economic necessity.”

On Sept. 21, 2007, the BLE denied Atkinson permission to be relieved from his obligation to fulfill JLAP’s requirements and notified him to that effect. Despite the BLE’s rejection of his plan, Atkinson did not continue with his JLAP requirements or submit quarterly reports.

In spring 2008, Atkinson contacted JLAP about the possibility of reactivating his license and getting into compliance with the monitoring agreement. He sent a letter April 8, 2008, to the BLE acknowledging his mistakes and sought renewal of the consent agreement.

After consideration of the request, the BLE sent Atkinson an amended consent agreement offering to continue his conditional admission for an additional two years. However, he never responded to the board’s offer, nor did he ever again contact JLAP.

The BLE filed a petition May 18, 2010, with the Supreme Court seeking revocation of Atkinson’s conditional admission and for the court to prohibit Atkinson from seeking admission for a period of five years. Atkinson filed a response June 17; however, it did not contest any of the allegations made in the BLE’s petition. Rather, the court wrote, he asserted he should be permitted to withdraw permanently from the practice of law. The BLE filed a motion for permission to respond.

After consideration, the court revoked the license and Atkinson shall not submit a new application for admission to the Indiana bar for five years. The court also ruled Atkinson “cannot avoid the revocation of his conditional admission by submitting an affidavit of permanent withdrawal,” and rejected said withdrawal. The court also denied the BLE’s motion for permission to reply to applicant’s response to the BLE’s petition.

Private reprimand
The Indiana Supreme Court approved July 1, 2010, a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline for a private reprimand for an anonymous respondent. He violated Ind. Prof. Cond. R. 5.3.

The respondent, who was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1980, was assigned by the state public defender as an independent contractor to represent a client in a post-conviction relief proceeding. With the client’s consent, he entered into an agreement with a nonlawyer inmate in the same facility where the client was incarcerated under which the inmate would assist in researching and preparing a PCR petition for the client. In exchange, respondent agreed to represent the inmate in his own PCR proceeding.

Mitigating facts are respondent has no disciplinary history, he cooperated with the commission, and he has a good reputation in the area of law in which he practices.

The court noted that had the matter not been submitted with an agreement, the discipline would likely be more severe. The court also wrote that respondent’s misconduct occurred more than a decade ago and that his record in nearly 30 years of practice is “otherwise unblemished.”•

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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