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Disciplinary Commission overreached, justices agree

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An Ohio attorney who argued his disciplinary case in a rare public forum before the Indiana Supreme Court prevailed as justices said the Indiana Disciplinary Commission’s arguments failed.   

Derek Farmer’s attorney claimed before the court in October that Ohio colleagues who argued on his behalf said that they believed his past and race were being used against him, because Farmer had been cleared in the same matter by Ohio’s attorney discipline authorities.

The Indiana Supreme Court opinion in State of Indiana Ex Rel., Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission v. Derek A. Farmer, 94S00-1103-MS-165, didn’t broach those arguments, but justices rejected charges the commission brought against Farmer. He had been accused of the unauthorized practice of law, and the commission also charged that he could not have reasonably expected to be authorized to practice.

“The commission has failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that an injunction should issue against Farmer. Accordingly, the court denies the Commission’s verified petition,” the per curiam opinion says. It was signed by all justices except Steven David, who concurred without a separate opinion. “The costs and expenses incurred by the hearing in this matter shall be borne by the Commission,” the court wrote.

Farmer is the only attorney in Ohio admitted to practice after a conviction in connection with a murder. He was convicted as a young accomplice in the 1974 murder of a civil-rights figure and a Dayton police officer. Farmer was 16 at the time and running with an 18-year-old relative who pulled the trigger in both killings after the pair robbed a jewelry store. Farmer served 18 years in prison, earning a college degree, and later completed law school. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1999.

“In the present proceeding, a federal judge and an attorney in Ohio who testified regarding Farmer’s good character and competence as an attorney stated that they would have provided an affidavit supporting Farmer’s request for temporary admission in Indiana if he had made one before or after his Ohio suspension,” the court wrote.

“Under these circumstances and in light of the discretion exercised by trial courts in ruling on motions for temporary admission under Admission and Discipline Rule 3(2), the Court concludes that the commission has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that, due to the pending disciplinary proceeding in Ohio, Farmer could not have reasonably expected to be authorized” to practice, the court wrote.

The commission also failed to prove that Farmer’s services to an Indiana client seeking post-conviction relief violated the “safe harbor” provision in Rule 5.5(c) that allows attorneys to practice in multistate jurisdictions “on a temporary basis” in some circumstances.

“Here, the charged conduct of Farmer involves occasional visits to Indiana for a single client in a single legal matter, not multiple matters or clients or any systematic or continuous presence in Indiana. Under these circumstances, the court concludes that the Commission has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Farmer’s provision of legal service to (the client) was more than ‘temporary.’”
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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