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Justices warn Indiana, out-of-state attorneys

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The Indiana Supreme Court has a warning for attorneys both inside and outside the state: comply with the rules for being admitted to practice here or else.

That “or else” component could mean more stringent discipline for Hoosier attorneys and potential unauthorized practice of law sanctions for those not properly admitted to practice in Indiana.

A per curiam opinion issues that caution today in the case In The Matter of Anonymous, No. 10S00-1006-DI-288, which comes out of Clark County and lodges a private reprimand against a Jeffersonville attorney for violating Professional Conduct Rule 5.5(a) by assisting in the unauthorized practice of law. Specifically, the sanction goes to the Indiana attorneys’ work on a case with a Kentucky attorney who didn’t comply with the state’s temporary admission rules.

The case stems from an incident where a Kentucky resident was injured in a fall at an Indiana restaurant, and that person hired a Kentucky attorney who later brought on a Jeffersonville attorney as local counsel. The out-of-state attorney didn’t seek temporary admission to practice in Indiana and both filed their appearances, though the Kentucky attorney subsequently signed and served answers to interrogatories and took depositions inside Indiana without the Jeffersonville attorney’s knowledge.

After the Kentucky attorney appeared in court for the client, the judge informed the Indiana attorney that his out-of-state colleague wasn’t admitted to practice here. The Hoosier lawyer told his colleague to seek temporary admission and gave him a copy of the applicable admission rule, but neither followed through with that process.

“The participation of Indiana co-counsel in the temporary admission process is of vital importance to this Court’s ability to supervise out-of-state attorneys practicing in this state,” the Supreme Court wrote. “This is no minor or perfunctory duty.”

Noting that not all attorneys seeking temporary admission will be granted that privilege, the justices said that rule compliance is very important and the in-state lawyers can be disciplined if those rules are ignored. But the court pointed out that too many attorneys are not following the rules. More than 600 notices for automatic exclusion for practice have gone out this year so far and the court has granted automatic exclusion relief to more than 140 out-of-state attorneys, the ruling states, noting that many are likely not practicing inside Indiana but hadn’t notified the Appellate Clerk’s Office that a case had concluded or they’d withdrawn.

“The need for this would be nearly eliminated if all Indiana co-counsel complied with their ethical duty to ensure that attorneys granted temporary admission in Indiana comply with Admission and Discipline Rule 3(2),” the court wrote, adding that all Indiana attorneys acting as local counsel for out-of-state lawyers have an ethical obligation to do so. “Indiana attorneys who neglect that duty in future cases may be subject to more stringent discipline, and out-of-state attorneys who fail to comply with this rule may be sanctioned for the unauthorized practice of law in this state.”
 

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  1. Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in December, but U.S. District Judge Robert Miller later reduced that to about $540,000 to put the damages for suffering under the statutory cap of $300,000.

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