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Divided justices suspend attorney for 2 years

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A Hancock County attorney was suspended for two years after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a 3-2 opinion that he charged unreasonable fees to an elderly client, converted funds belonging to her, and was dishonest before the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Thomas E.Q. Williams was suspended for two years without automatic reinstatement effective Sept. 7, according to an order the Indiana Supreme Court released Friday. Justice Mark Massa joined Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. in a dissent in which they would have disbarred Williams.

Williams was sued in 2002 after a client, M.D., revoked power of attorney upon learning that her account at a retirement facility was past due. A trial court ruled Williams failed to properly account for the elderly client’s expenses and his services for which he fraudulently billed $93,500. The court awarded the damages against Williams of $67,292, and the disciplinary grievance was filed.

The disciplinary order notes that after the disciplinary commission filed its verified complaint against Williams, he argued for the first time that he used his client’s funds “to produce for her a gospel following her near death and other writings or perhaps publishing with M.D.’s funds since these things may be something a little different from what a usual trusted friend would do with funds.”

“Respondent's nearly complete lack of even rudimentary records of his dealings with M.D.’s property under the POA is a fact in aggravation of his professional misconduct,” according to the per curiam opinion.

“We also find the following additional facts in aggravation: (1) Respondent's groundless attacks on M.D. and others associated with her when she attempted to obtain the accounting to which she was legally entitled; (2) his dishonesty in denying under oath in this case that the funds he took from M.D. were for legal services after he repeatedly and unequivocally stated under oath in the civil suit that they were for attorney fees; and (3) his lack of remorse for any of his misconduct.”

The opinion said disbarment was not an effective discipline because Williams “has essentially withdrawn from the practice of law since the early 1990s. Thus, from his vantage point, disbarment is a non-event — it would simply prohibit him from doing that which he has not done for nearly two decades. And because disbarment is permanent, he would have no incentive to come to grips with the pain and suffering he has wrought.”

But Sullivan and Massa wrote in dissent that disbarment was appropriate.

“I would not provide an opportunity to return to practice to a lawyer who, after helping himself to his frail and elderly client’s money, says the money was a gift after his first explanation that it constituted payment for legal services was rejected by a court,” Sullivan wrote.


 

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  1. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

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  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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