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Ogden receives 30-day suspension for criticizing judge

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Indianapolis attorney and blogger Paul Ogden has been suspended for 30 days by the Indiana Supreme Court based on comments he made regarding a judge who presided over an estate case involving Ogden’s client.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission brought two counts against Ogden in March 2013. Count I stems from comments he made regarding Hendricks Superior Judge David H. Coleman, who was appointed special judge in an unsupervised estate case. Ogden successfully had Coleman replaced on the case. In 2010, Ogden made several “highly critical” comments about Coleman in correspondences.

The comment that resulted in Ogden being disciplined alleged that the judge committed malfeasance in the initial stages of the administration of the estate by allowing it to be opened as an unsupervised estate, by appointing a personal representative with a conflict of interest, and by not requiring the posting of bond, the disciplinary order states.

“Respondent’s repeated and virulent accusations that Judge Coleman committed malfeasance in the initial stages of the administration of the Estate were not just false; they were impossible because Judge Coleman was not even presiding over the Estate at this time—a fact Respondent could easily have determined. Because Respondent lacked any objectively reasonable basis for (these) statements, we conclude that Respondent made these statements in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity, thus violating Rule 8.2(a),” the justices unanimously held in an order handed down Monday.

The commission did not meet its burden of proof regarding the other comments Ogden made regarding Coleman, the justices found, leading the court to find Ogden’s criticisms of Coleman’s rulings fall within his broad First Amendment rights. And although another allegation of a conflict of interest turned out to be false, it was based upon Ogden’s client’s reports to him. The justices found Ogden’s allegation that Coleman was unqualified as a judge and that he engaged in judicial misconduct in presiding over the estate were “more in the nature of opinions as opposed to statements of fact.”

Count II deals with letters Ogden sent to the Marion Superior Court, Civil Division, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, the Indiana attorney general and the Marion County public safety director, asking that they ensure the law regarding forfeiture is followed and enforced. At the time the letters were sent, Ogden was not representing any party in pending forfeiture cases.

The justices concluded that the Disciplinary Commission did not present clear and convincing evidence that the letters Ogden sent were prejudicial to the administration of justice.

They also noted that Ogden has been “obstreperous rather than cooperative” during the course of this disciplinary proceeding.

His suspension begins Aug. 5 and he will be automatically reinstated. Ogden is to pay one-half of the costs and expenses of this proceeding, along with a $250 fee.
 

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  • Spot on
    Spot on, Mr. Hofer. Had Paul not resisted we would not have this fine re-statement of Dixon and he would be out of the practice for one year. I think the High Court might have meant to award only half of the copying costs to the State, not half of their attorneys fees. If the latter, then many of the solo practitioners targeted cannot, like Paul, like most targetted, cannot afford to resist the Will of the State.
  • obstreperous?
    The Court said Ogden was “obstreperous rather than cooperative". I think they got their parties mixed up. They ruled Ogden correct on 80% of the issues. The final issue would never have resulted in the loss of a law license like the Disciplinary Commission wanted. Why should you be cooperative when the government is trying to take away your livelihood for speech that is protected by the First Amendment? It's not a fair result when you are assessed $10k in prosecution charges when the prosecution stuck to an unreasonable position the entire litigation and lost most of the lawsuit. Ogden has done a great public service in pointing out that major changes need to be made at the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.
    • Poll Idea
      Hey Indiana Attorney .... how about conducting a poll on whether it is just for Ogden to pay $10000 to the disciplinary office for giving him due process of law? Choices could be "very unfair" "possibly unfair" "uncertain" "resistance is futile" and the anciently popular, "worship the state."
    • Sad, sad, pathetic
      Advance Indiana is reporting on a chilling wind that should advise every attonrey in Indiana to not disagree with any government attorneys. to simply be unthinking, uncaring automatons like the powerful and connected want: " UPDATE II: The Disciplinary Commission billed Ogden $10,300 for his share of the expenses for their failed efforts to bar him from the practice of law in Indiana."
    • Gary on Paul
      Advance Indiana is the place to go for more on this story ... Welch writes "Attorneys in Indiana should be very thankful to Ogden for standing his ground and fighting for a fundamental right all attorneys should hold as sacred. He has suffered severe and undue hardship as a result of this entire ordeal. This decision, in my opinion, exonerates him for the most part, notwithstanding the additional hardship of a 30-day suspension he must incur. This was certainly not the outcome desired by the disciplinary commission or the hearing officer." And he quotes Paul at this post as well: http://advanceindiana.blogspot.com/2014/06/indiana-supreme-court-suspends-ogden.html
    • here
      Here it the clip, for our younger readers .... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPr7cYLq3dk The Travelor has come ... hmmm, I think friends should hire Ogden to write some policy pieces in August.
      • Justice is done
        This certainly appears to be a just result, and yet another clear sign of a seismic and very welcome sea change in how the Ind Supreme Court approaches these issues. Who woulda thunk it just a few short years ago, but Indiana attorneys really do have first amendment rights. Perhaps the revolution can now be postponed. AND ... this line reminded me of the Marshmallow man scene from Ghost Busters ... "Respondent has suggested that any misconduct the Court finds should warrant no more than a 30-day suspension with automatic reinstatement. See Brief on Sanctions at 19. We impose discipline accordingly"

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