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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