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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. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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