Dishing out the discipline

June 4, 2008
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Written by guest blogger Michael Hoskins, Indiana Lawyer reporter:





Disciplinary actions can be like a legal newspaper's police crime blotter – attorneys say that's what the legal community flips to first to see if anyone they know is in the news. There have been some notable ones lately that warrant an extra look:

-         Geoffrey N. Fieger: The Indiana Supreme Court banned the Michigan attorney from taking new cases here for two years. This is newsworthy now because the Hoosier court's action came as a federal trial involving Fieger was wrapping up in Detroit. Fieger and his law partner were on trial for illegal campaign contributions to presidential candidate John Edwards’ campaign in 2004. A jury acquitted both on Monday, more than a week after the Indiana Supreme Court made its decision. At least one Indiana justice wanted the punishment to be permanent, but majority ruled. Would a conviction led to a different result in Indiana?







-         Bloomington attorney David J. Colman lost his license for at least three years because of multiple misconduct counts. Three justices opted for that punishment, though the chief justice and another justice wanted disbarment because this is the lawyer’s fourth disciplinary proceeding since being admitted to the practice in 1970. They pointed out that previously they’d voted to reinstate him, but this latest misconduct was too much.





There have been others, but these two examples beg the question: Does our Indiana system of legal discipline warrant a closer look? Are judges and lawyers able to fairly, objectively, consistently, and effectively discipline themselves? How does the Hoosier disciplinary system rate? What stands out for or against it?  
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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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