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Disciplinary Actions - 9/14/11

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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.

Reinstatement
Anna E. Fulkerson of Noble County was reinstated as a member of the Indiana bar in a Supreme Court order filed Aug. 24, 2011. Fulkerson was suspended on Sept. 14, 2009, without automatic reinstatement. Her reinstatement was subject to the following conditions: (1) successful completion of probation of at least two years on terms to be determined by JLAP, consistent with the hearing officer’s recommendations; (2) she has no violations of the terms set by JLAP, the law, or the Rules of Professional Conduct during the probation period; and (3) if she violates her probation, the commission may petition the court to revoke her probation and to re-impose the suspension without automatic reinstatement. Probation remains in effect until terminated pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(17.1).

Suspension
Todd E. Wallsmith of Knox County has been suspended from the practice of law in a Supreme Court order filed Aug. 19, 2011. Wallsmith is suspended for a period of 180 days, beginning Sept. 30, with 45 days actively served and the remainder stayed subject to completion of 24 months of probation with mental health treatment and JLAP monitoring. Wallsmith violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.2(a): Failure to abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation; 1.3: Failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; 1.7(a): Representing a client when the representation is directly adverse to another client; and 3.3(a)(1): Knowingly making a false statement of fact to a tribunal and failing to correct a false statement of material fact previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer.

Timothy D. Freeman of Marion County has been suspended from the practice of law for noncooperation with the disciplinary commission. The suspension, provided in an order filed Aug. 19, 2011, was effective immediately. Pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(10)(f)(3), the suspension will continue until: (1) the executive secretary of the disciplinary commission certifies to the court that Freeman has cooperated fully with the investigation; (2) the investigation or any disciplinary proceedings arising from the investigation are disposed of; or (3) until further order of the court, provided no other suspensions are in effect. Freeman was already under a suspension order that became effective July 19, 2011.

Jacob A. Atanga of Marion County has been suspended from the practice of law for noncooperation with the disciplinary commission. The suspension, provided in an order filed Aug. 19, 2011, was effective immediately. Pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(10)(f)(3), the suspension will continue until: (1) the executive secretary of the disciplinary commission certifies to the court that Freeman has cooperated fully with the investigation; (2) the investigation or any disciplinary proceedings arising from the investigation are disposed of; or (3) until further order of the court, provided no other suspensions are in effect.

Bruce J. Goldberg of Floyd County has been suspended from the practice of law in a Supreme Court order filed Aug. 24, 2011. Goldberg is suspended for a period of 90 days, beginning Sept. 16, with 30 days actively served and the remainder stayed subject to completion of two years of probation. Goldberg was found to have violated Indiana Admission and Discipline Rules 23(29)(a)(2) and (3): Failure to maintain proper records for trust account activities; 23(29)(a)(4): Failure to deposit funds received on behalf of clients intact; 23(29)(a)(5): Making withdrawals from a trust account without written withdrawal authorization stating the amount and purpose of the withdrawal and the payee; and Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.15(a): Failure to hold property of clients properly in trust, failure to hold property of clients separate from lawyer’s own property, failure to safeguard client funds, and failure to maintain complete records of client trust account funds. While the court said the terms of probation will include correction of all trust account errors, trust account monitoring, and a designated number of CLE hours on trust account and law office management, it did note that nothing in the complaint or conditional agreement suggests that any client funds were lost due to Goldberg’s misconduct.

Kjell P. Engebretsen of Boone County has been suspended from the practice of law for noncooperation with the disciplinary commission. The suspension, provided in an order filed Sept. 2, 2011, was effective immediately. Pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(10)(f)(3), the suspension will continue until: (1) the executive secretary of the disciplinary commission certifies to the court that Freeman has cooperated fully with the investigation; (2) the investigation or any disciplinary proceedings arising from the investigation are disposed of; or (3) until further order of the court, provided no other suspensions are in effect. Engebretsen was already under a suspension order that became effective March 19, 2011.

Edward A. B. Castaldo of Hamilton County has been suspended from the practice of law for a period of not less than 90 days, effective immediately. The suspension, provided in a Supreme Court order filed Sept. 2, 2011, revoked Castaldo’s probation ordered by the court in 2009 and imposed suspension that had been stayed pending the lawyer’s completion of a 24-month probationary period with specified requirements. According to the Sept. 2 order, Castaldo materially violated the terms of the JLAP monitoring agreement and failed to attend a trust account management course, as previously ordered. He was already under a suspension order that became effective June 20, 2011.

Public reprimand
Danny L. Whitten and Stacey E. Whitten of Porter County received a public reprimand in a Supreme Court order filed Aug. 19, 2011. Both published an advertisement promoting themselves as “specializing in bankruptcy relief” when neither had been certified as a specialist by an independent certifying organization accredited by the Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education. This was in violation of Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 7.4(d) (formerly Rule 7.2(c)(4))•

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  1. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

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  3. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  4. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  5. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

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