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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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