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Lawyer suspended for 180 days due to conduct during disciplinary process

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The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered a six month suspension for an Indiana lawyer who primarily practices in Michigan, not because of the misconduct committed, but more specifically because of the attorney’s bad behavior during the disciplinary process.

Issuing a nine-page opinion In the Matter of Patrick K. Rocchio, No. 98S00-0911-DI-533, the per curium court determined that the Notre Dame Law School graduate who has been practicing since 1972 but primarily in Michigan, should receive a 180-day suspension. Justice Robert Rucker dissented on the length of the suspension, believing a 30-day suspension without automatic reinstatement is more warranted because this longer sanction is disproportionate to the misconduct alleged and inconsistent with the sanctions imposed for similar misconduct in the past.

In 2008, Rocchio sent a letter to a Michigan City resident involved in a serious car crash in Indiana after reading about the accident in the newspaper. The letter offered a free no-obligation counseling conference and outlined Rocchio’s history representing accident victims, including his “successfully representing hundreds of clients in both Michigan and Indiana recovering millions of dollars for deserving clients.”

The Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission alleged this was a violation of Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 7.2(c) because neither the letter nor envelope contained the words “advertising material,” and the letter wasn’t filed with the agency as required.

A second charge involved his status of practice in 2009, when his website stated the various legal matters he could handle with his Indiana law license despite the fact that his license had been inactive since Aug. 24, 2009. The Disciplinary Commission accused him of violating Rule 5.5(b)(2) in holding himself out to the public as an Indiana lawyer able to practice law in this state.

Even though Rocchio argued that the Indiana Supreme Court and Disciplinary Commission didn’t have jurisdiction over him because he’s a Michigan attorney, the court decided it had jurisdiction because of his active license at the time the letter was sent and as it pertained to his status as a lawyer here.

Former Judge Barbara Brugnaux served as hearing officer in this case and decided Rocchio had engaged in attorney misconduct. She found his lack of disciplinary history to be a mitigating factor, but as aggravating factors she cited his lack of insight and unwillingness to accept responsibility about the misconduct, his dishonesty about denying he’d sent the letter to seek professional employment, and that he’d not conducted himself rationally or civilly during the proceedings and had sent improper e-mail to the hearing officer trying to persuade her to see his point of view.

The Indiana Supreme Court agreed and found Rocchio had committed attorney misconduct in that his letter didn’t specify that it was “advertising material” as required and that his letter included a statement likely to “create an unjustified expectation” for clients. Justices disagreed with Rocchio’s arguments that the letter was a “private correspondence” rather than a “public communication” within the meaning of Rule 7.2 precedent in the past decade.

Normally, the misconduct alone would warrant a public reprimand or even a lesser sanction for the written communications violations, the court wrote. But Rocchio’s conduct during the disciplinary process makes this a more serious matter, they wrote.

“We find that Respondent… engaged in attorney misconduct that, standing alone, would warrant a sanction in the lowest range,” the ruling says. “However, Respondent’s conduct during the disciplinary process demonstrates his inability to recognize his clear violations of this state’s disciplinary rules, his contempt for those rules and this disciplinary process, and his lack of appreciation for the role of this Court’s hearing officer and Disciplinary Commission members and staff. In order to protect the people in this state from further misconduct, these substantial aggravating circumstances require suspending Respondent from the practice of law without automatic reinstatement.”
 

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  • The Rest of the Story
    The Indiana Supreme Court opinion is not an acccurate or complete summary of the facts in this case. Likewise, this account is extremely misleading. For a more accurate statement of the relevant facts, contact Patrick K. Rocchio by email at rocchiopk@cbpu.com

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  1. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

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