Misconduct complaint on AG ad

October 31, 2008
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With all the political ads showing on TV right now, it’s easy for us to tune them out. But one recent ad from the camp of Republican candidate for Attorney General Greg Zoeller has upset one Indianapolis criminal defense attorney so much that he’s reporting the ad to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Attorney Bob Hammerle recently sent Indiana Lawyer a letter to the editor about the ad that attacks Democratic AG nominee Linda Pence for her past service as a criminal defense attorney. For those who haven’t seen the ad, or perhaps tuned it out, the language in the ad seems to try to impact negatively upon Pence’s character because she’s represented criminals. I couldn’t find the ad online, either on Zoeller’s Web site or on YouTube.

We received the letter after our deadline for the issue prior to the election, but we decided to publish excerpts here because Hammerle brings up some interesting points:

“… To listen to Mr. Zoeller’s pernicious ads, one would conclude that there is something dishonorable in representing a person accused of a criminal act. Even worse, Mr. Zoeller blatantly suggests that a criminal defense lawyer is somehow personally tainted by the accusations made against his or her client. That is as absurd as it is preposterous, and again I am certain that Mr. Zoeller fully knows it,” wrote Hammerle.

“…Years ago when I began my own practice as a criminal defense attorney, the late Judge Andrew Jacobs Sr. hired me as a public defender. In doing so, he told me that despite the fact that I will frequently be meeting human beings who have done contemptible things, that I was to represent each one as if they were my best paying client. He reminded me that in doing so, everyone’s right to liberty is enhanced.”

“…In pandering to public misperceptions about his own profession, Mr. Zoeller unintentionally calls into question his own competence to serve as the leading lawyer of this State.”

Speaking with Hammerle this afternoon about the ad, he said he’s brought the ad to the attention of the Disciplinary Commission, citing Rules 8.3(a) and 8.4(d) of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. Hammerle said he’s upset that an ad endorsing one attorney – especially if the ad was approved by Zoeller – would openly denigrate another attorney. He said it’s not about political parties but disrespect from one attorney toward another.

Hammerle’s letter hits on an important point that the general public may not consider when it comes to accused criminals – they have the right to an attorney, whether they can pay for it themselves or tax dollars have to be used for public defenders. The ad endorsing Zoeller makes it seem like Pence, or criminal defense attorneys in general, are just as bad as the people they are defending. Being a criminal defense attorney may not be the most revered or positively viewed profession by the general public, but it’s a needed one.
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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

  3. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Far too many people are sentenced for far too many years in prison. Many of the federal prisoners are sentenced for marijuana violations. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  4. My daughter was married less than a week and her new hubbys picture was on tv for drugs and now I havent't seen my granddaughters since st patricks day. when my daughter left her marriage from her childrens Father she lived with me with my grand daughters and that was ok but I called her on the new hubby who is in jail and said didn't want this around my grandkids not unreasonable request and I get shut out for her mistake

  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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