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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 $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

  3. The numbers are harsh; 66 - 24 in the House, 40 - 10 in the Senate. And it is an idea pushed by the Democrats. Dead end? Ummm not necessarily. Just need to go big rather than go home. Nuclear option. Give it to the federal courts, the federal courts will ram this down our throats. Like that other invented right of the modern age, feticide. Rights too precious to be held up by 2000 years of civilization hang in the balance. Onward!

  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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