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Lawyer disbarred for client altercation, numerous violations

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A criminal defense lawyer accused of instigating a physical altercation with a former client at the City-County Building in Indianapolis and committing numerous rules violations has been disbarred.

Steven B. Geller had to be restrained by guards after accosting a former client he believed owed him money at the courthouse in Indianapolis. He yelled at the ex-client, "I'll f***ing kill you!", according to the Indiana Supreme Court order of disbarment in In the Matter of: Steven B. Geller, 49S00-1106-DI-318.

"The Court concludes that (Geller) violated the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct by multiple acts of misconduct, including dishonesty to a court and to the (Disciplinary) Commission, improper ex parte communication with a judge, improper communication with a represented party, pervasive neglect of vulnerable clients, disorderly conduct in a judicial facility, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice," the 15-page per curiam order says.

Justices approved disbarment in a 4-1 decision. Justice Mark Massa concurred in part and dissented in part and would have imposed a three-year suspension without automatic reinstatement.

Geller had been suspended for one year in 2000 for threatening to reveal a client’s conviction for child molesting to fellow inmates in retaliation when the client threatened to file a grievance, the court noted, along with three financial violations.

“The Court notes [Geller’s] history of misconduct, his unsuccessful prior attempt at rehabilitation, his inability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his current misconduct (except admitting "losing it" in Count 1), and his confrontational attitude toward those involved in the disciplinary process,” the order reads.

“Of particular concern is (Geller’s) continued inability to manage his anger, his attempts to blame others, including his own clients, for his misconduct, and his dishonesty toward a court and the Commission. Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that disbarment is warranted.”

The court found Geller violated a dozen Rules of Professional Conduct. They are:

-- 1.3: Failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness;
-- 1.4(a)(3): Failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter;
-- 1.4(a)(4): Failure to comply promptly with a client's reasonable requests for information;
-- 1.4(b): Failure to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions;
-- 1.5(b): Failing to communicate the scope of the lawyer's representation and the basis or rate of the fee for which a client will be responsible;
-- 1.16(d): After the termination of representation, failure to protect a client's interests, failure to refund an unearned fee, and failure promptly to return to a client case file materials to which the client is entitled;
-- 3.3(a)(1): Knowingly making a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal;
-- 3.5(b): Engaging in an improper ex parte communication with a judge;
-- 4.2: Improperly communicating with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter;
-- 8.1(a): Knowingly making a false statement of material fact to the Disciplinary Commission in connection with a disciplinary matter;
-- 8.4(b): Committing a criminal act (disorderly conduct) that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer; and
-- 8.4(d): Engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Separately, Geller was criminally charged in March 2013 with five counts of Class D felony tax evasion for failing to file Indiana individual or business income tax returns for the years 2007 through 2011.

According to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Geller is due in Marion Superior Criminal Court 25 for a pretrial conference on May 29. His trial date is currently set for June 10.

Geller was admitted to practice in 1989.

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  1. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  2. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  3. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  4. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  5. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

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