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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. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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