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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 Because Atkinson did not abide by the terms of his conditional admission, his license to practice law in Indiana has been revoked, effective with the July 6, 2010, Supreme Court order.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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