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Justices suspend 2 attorneys, concerned whether one is fit to practice

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The Indiana Supreme Court issued two disciplinary opinions Wednesday, including a decision in which the justices suspended an Indianapolis attorney for at least 18 months, citing his “serious deficiencies in representing clients and himself.”

The Disciplinary Commission brought charges against Patrick Stern based on three lawsuits he filed that involved D.R., an elderly woman who owned a condemned building in Indianapolis and was worried about financial liability; J.S., allegedly D.R.’s common law husband; and J.H. a convicted murderer who worked in Stern’s office as a “contract paralegal.”

Stern represented D.R. in her complaint against the city challenging its order that her building be demolished. He drafted a quitclaim deed by which D.R. transferred the building to J.H., which resulted in both of them being jointly and severally responsible for demolition and administrative costs. Stern also represented D.R. in another lawsuit seeking damages for trespass and destroying her property after the building was torn down. He represented J.H. and J.S. in their federal lawsuit against the director of Metropolitan Development for the city of Indianapolis. Stern lost the last two cases, with the courts citing his failure to state a claim, among other reasons.

In In the Matter of: Patrick H. Stern, 49S00-1205-DI-255 , the justices found Stern violated seven rules of Professional Conduct stemming from his use of J.H. as a paralegal, misconduct in the three lawsuits and misconduct during the Disciplinary Commission’s investigation.

Stern has a pattern of misconduct and instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, blamed the judges in the lawsuit, the Disciplinary Commission, and others, the per curiam opinion states. He also has shown no insight into his misconduct. The justices noted Stern showed a lack of basic competence in representing himself – his responses were difficult to understand, riddled with grammatical errors, and he often gave incomplete, inaccurate or incomprehensible responses.  

“In light of his serious deficiencies in representing clients and himself and his refusal to acknowledge any misconduct on his part, the Court has grave concerns about Respondent's current fitness to represent clients in the practice of law. We therefore conclude that Respondent should be suspended from practice and undergo a reinstatement proceeding before resuming practice,” the justices ruled, imposing at least an 18-month suspension, beginning Aug. 13.

Justice Steven David dissented with regard to the discipline, believing it is insufficient.

The justices also suspended Hamilton County attorney, Steve Brejensky, for at least a year based on a Class A misdemeanor conversion conviction for taking a bag of mulch from a gas station. Brejensky, who is now listed on the Roll of Attorneys as practicing in Queens, N.Y., never appealed his conviction, but argued in his “late, nonconforming answer” to the Disciplinary Commission that he was wrongly accused of taking the mulch, according to the per curiam opinion, In the Matter of: Steve L. Brejensky, 29S00-1205-DI-277.

The Supreme Court cited in aggravation that Brejenski failed to keep his address on the Roll of Attorneys current, he answered the Disciplinary Commission’s complaint only after the hearing officer ordered him to do so, he failed to comply with deadlines, and the contents of his answer show a lack of remorse for and a lack of insight into the nature of his wrongful conduct.

Brejenski did not report his conviction to the Disciplinary Commission. He also has a disciplinary history, which includes noncooperation with the commission.  The justices found he violated two rules of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.

“Given the seriousness of Respondent's misconduct and the substantial facts in aggravation, the Court concludes that Respondent should be suspended for at least one year, after which he may be reinstated only after proving his remorse, rehabilitation, and fitness to practice law,” the opinion states.

The costs of the proceedings are assessed against Stern and Brejenski.




 

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  • Contract Paralegals
    Among other things Stern was sanctioned for using contract paralegals and exposing them to confidential information. Yes, that's a violation. Now it's time to sanction the collection firms who use collection agency employees to draft complaints for the attorney's rubber stamp signature. It's time to sanction the prosecuting attorneys who allow the use of their signatures and letterhead by collection agencies in corporate welfare bad check programs.

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  1. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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