ILNews

Lawyer suspended for conversion, lying

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court suspended a Vanderburgh County attorney today for at least three years for committing what the court describes as the most serious of ethical breaches.

The court came to its decision In the matter of: Douglas W. Patterson, No. 82S00-0402-DI-90, as a result of Douglas Patterson's conversion of client funds, deceit in concealing his misconduct, and dishonesty with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Patterson was an associate at a law firm which maintained a trust account. In 1999, Patterson and attorney Maurice Doll left the firm and started a new one. The new law firm continued to use the old firm's trust account until they established their own in May 2000.

Patterson continued to use the old trust account once the new one had been established. In August 2000, the new firm's bookkeeper discovered Patterson had written five checks to himself or on his behalf from that account in July 2000.

Patterson denied knowledge of the checks and didn't admit to writing the checks until Doll suggested they contact the police. Patterson claimed he only wrote checks out of that account in July 2000, but an audit later revealed he wrote checks to himself in April and May 2000.

Also, in January 2000, Patterson deposited his own funds into the trust account and then immediately wrote a check for the same amount to a church daycare center in order to reimburse the church for a tax debt it owed as a result of a mistake he made in handling its payroll.

Patterson eventually repaid the money he converted, most of which belonged to a single client.

When he appeared before the Disciplinary Commission, Patterson said he only wrote checks to himself in July 2000 and didn't know the funds belonged to clients, but he did admit he mixed client and personal funds in the daycare transaction. He argued the Disciplinary Commission failed to meet its burden of proof with respect to all other charges and asked for a consideration of mitigating factors.

The Supreme Court found overwhelming evidence of Patterson's conversion of funds in the trust account, that he lied when he said he didn't know the money in the account was client funds, and evidence supports the hearing officer's rejection of his credibility regarding this issue.

The high court concluded Patterson violated Professional Rules of Conduct 1.15(b), 8.4(b) and 8.4(c). Because the misconduct of converting client funds, deceit in concealing misconduct, and dishonesty with the Disciplinary Commission are among the most serious of ethical breaches, the court decided he should be suspended from the practice of law for at least three years beginning July 31.

After that time, he may be reinstated only if he pays the costs of this proceeding, fulfills his duties as a suspended attorney, and satisfies the requirements of Admission and Discipline Rule 23(4), including demonstrating genuine remorse.
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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

  3. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Far too many people are sentenced for far too many years in prison. Many of the federal prisoners are sentenced for marijuana violations. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  4. My daughter was married less than a week and her new hubbys picture was on tv for drugs and now I havent't seen my granddaughters since st patricks day. when my daughter left her marriage from her childrens Father she lived with me with my grand daughters and that was ok but I called her on the new hubby who is in jail and said didn't want this around my grandkids not unreasonable request and I get shut out for her mistake

  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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