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Failure to report

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The arm of the Indiana Supreme Court that enforces rules governing the admission and discipline of lawyers has been in violation of one of those rules for several years.

The Disciplinary Commission hasn’t produced an annual report in recent years, Supreme Court spokewoman Kathryn Dolan confirmed. The last annual report posted on the commission’s website as of IL deadline was from fiscal year 2009-2010.

“The reports weren’t put online because they’re not ready yet,” Dolan said. “We’re not trying to make a statement about why, it just wasn’t done. It was an oversight.”

Admission and Discipline Rule 23(23) states, “The commission shall make an annual report of its activities to the Supreme Court and the Indiana State Bar Association. The report shall include a statement of income and expenses for the year.”

While the commission didn’t meet the requirements of the rule, Dolan said financial information for those years was provided to the court, but not the state bar. She said the financial information was provided to the bar last week after the error was discovered.

The commission derives its revenue almost exclusively from a portion of the licensing fees attorneys are required to pay to retain their bar status.

According to financial information provided by Dolan, the commission had more money in the bank in the 2012-2013 fiscal year than in any previous year – an opening fund balance of $1,606,403. The commission budgeted collecting about $2 million in fees and spending about $2.3 million. Employee salaries, benefits and associated costs consumed about $1.9 million of the budget.

The information projected the commission would carry over an opening balance of about $1.45 million into the current fiscal year.

Disciplinary Commission executive director Michael Witte did not respond to messages seeking comment about the absence of annual reports.

Indiana State Bar Association President Dan Vinovich said the association received financial information from the commission last week. “Once it was determined those reports needed to be filed, they have now been filed,” he said.

Vinovich said the annual report was a “technical requirement and not a significant problem or concern of ours.” He noted the state bar receives advance notice of attorney suspensions, for instance, and updates on court functions from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Office of the Attorney General at annual meetings and other forums.

Officers in local bar associations who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity said the commission’s failure to file annual reports was disappointing.

“Is it catastrophic? No,” said an officer of one of the state’s largest county bar associations. But the problem is one of perception of the commission: “They expect everyone to follow the rules. They should do the same.”

An attorney in southern Indiana who holds a county bar leadership post agreed. “I’m surprised,” the commission neglected to file reports for thee years, the officer said. “They should do that.”

But the local bar officers said most attorneys in their communities had a generally positive view of the commission’s work and that local bar groups usually are well informed of disciplinary actions or matters affecting local attorneys.

“I think (lawyers) are respectful of the commission and the responsibility they have,” the southern Indiana bar officer said.

“I would say attorneys as a whole view the Disciplinary Commission as doing a good job,” said the large-county bar official. “Perhaps the commission needs to work on some transparency issues. I think that’s what we all should be striving for.”

The work of the commission has been included in the annual reports prepared by the Supreme Court, but that section in the court’s most recent report for fiscal year 2011-2012 contains no financial information. The commission reported 66 final orders in discipline cases. A total of 34 verified complaints for disciplinary action were initiated that fiscal year, 29 less than the prior year.

Commission chairwoman Catherine Nestrick said a new case management system implemented to better track cases resulted in the delay in completing annual reports.

“As with many software implementations, we had a number of issues to work through and this caused a delay in the preparation and publication of the 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 annual reports,” Nestrick said in an email. She noted the 2009-2010 report was only this summer reconciled with the new system and posted online.

“The remaining reports are in the process of being finalized and we expect them to be available very soon,” she said. Dolan said the reports will be posted online when they are completed.•

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  • Not just about me ...
    I am not admitted in Indiana and will not be since i am a whistleblower, and so I can say these things. I doubt KS will punch my ticket just because Indiana asks for me to be disbarred, we have a little thing called rule of law for attorneys in Kansas . ... a concept that I hope Indiana gets around to one fine day. Anyway, consider the above and then consider that the DC likely routinely investigates and punishes Indiana attorneys for failure to respond to clients and courts. Hypocrite much?
  • Even more irony!
    As I chew on this the taste becomes even more bitter! I was a Dept AG for 4 years in Kansas, serving the most conservative AG in that state's history. We took on Planned Parenthood, which should not be done lightly. They hit back very hard and very personally. Anyway, for 4 years I was under a statutory demand that I report to the state legislature and governor each year. It was onerous, and often kept me up all night and in the office all weekend, but I got it done each year. And yet, even though I so served with distinction, never was disciplined, and was in good standing in Kansas, deemed admittable anywhere by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, cleared on character and fitness by Missouri the year before, and admitted to the Seventh Circuit and ND Ind fed court after .... the Indiana BLE, using a DC attorney, denied me entrance and denied me the right to even petition again for five years .... and then they went years and years without even filing their statutorily mandated reports, the lack of filing being such an act that should forfeit their right to hold the office entrusted to them by the operation of the state constitution! IRONIC!
  • Oh the irony!
    In the 31 page report issued against me to join the Indiana bar, which addresses my worldview and religious perspective on governance while containing not one citation to law, not even a recitation of the relevant standards, I was faulted, among other reasons to deny my bid to become licensed (despite having been licensed in Kansas since 96 without discipline) and to order me to not apply again for five years, I was faulted, even verbally reprimanded (by a DC attorney) for being about one month tardy on telling the Bar Examiners that I have been laid off from non legal work. (I actually did not realize I had such a duty, since I was subject to recall.) One month. Yet this is the standard that they keep themselves? So sad for Indiana, so sad for the rule of law. More on my "processing" through this system here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23961843/Brown-v-Bowman-complaint-12-09 and here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/109518279/Brownv-ind-S-ct-BoardLawExams Oral argument before the 7th circuit here: http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/sound/2011/migrated.orig.11-2164_10_20_2011.mp3
  • Additional Point
    I would add that the fact those bar officials requested anonymity for their criticism of the DC for failing to timely file reports speaks volumes. They are undoubtedly concerned about retaliation for daring to criticize the Commission. But if the DC is not being operated in a political fashion in which critics of the Commission are targeted, then what do these officials have to worry about having their name exposed? Their own conduct undercuts the claim that they and people in their county bar associations believe that the Commission is being run properly.
  • Attorneys View of the DC
    Those bar officials who are quoted saying that attorneys are generally happy with how the Commission has operated are telling huge fibs and I guarantee you they know it. I have been an attorney for 26 years and I have heard a torrent of criticism about how the Commission has operated under Lundberg and Witte. They complain that the DC does not enforce the rules evenly, that political considerations enter the Commission's decision to target certain attorneys, that the DC goes after small firm attorneys and sole practitioners almost exclusively, that the DC operates as a virtual Star Chamber via its use of secrecy. The board of the DC appears to be little more than a rubber stamp for whatever the Executive Secretary wants to do. My time as an attorney has spanned the Lundberg and Witte eras and I have yet to hear one attorney speak positively of how the DC has been operated under them. On the other hand, I have heard positive things about how it ran under Shelden Breskow, Lundberg's predecessor.
  • ?????
    BS

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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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