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Fort Wayne attorney disbarred for fund mismanagement

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A Fort Wayne attorney who repeatedly failed to cooperate in a disciplinary action has been disbarred for mismanagement of his trust account and converting client funds.

The justices of the Indiana Supreme Court disbarred Donald Edward James Tuesday after previously suspending him in January for failing to respond to a September 2016 show cause order related to two disciplinary cases.

In the per curiam opinion, the justices wrote that James’ disciplinary trouble began in July 2016 when the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission first filed a disciplinary complaint against him. The disciplinary complaint stemmed from James’ conduct in 2015, when he “significantly overdrew his attorney trust account on three occasions, regularly commingled personal funds with client funds, made unauthorized cash and check withdrawals from the trust account for his own personal purposes, and failed to maintain adequate trust account records.”

James largely failed to cooperate with the investigation into his misconduct, the justices wrote, and did not participate in any of the disciplinary proceedings. As aggravating factors, the hearing officer cited James’ “dishonest and selfish motive,” his multiple offenses, the criminal nature of his misconduct, his deceptive practices during the investigation and his refusal to acknowledge the wrongfulness of his actions.

The hearing officer recommended that James be disbarred, and after finding that he had violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.15(a), 8.1(b), 8.4(b) and (c) and Indiana Admission and Discipline Rules 23(29)(a)(2), (3) and (4), the high court justices agreed, effective immediately. The costs of the proceeding are assessed against James.
 

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