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Partners receive public reprimand for ads' use

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Two partners in the Indianapolis law firm Benkie & Crawford received public reprimands from the Indiana Supreme Court Thursday for attorney misconduct in their advertisements for legal services.

In the combined disciplinary actions of the attorneys, In the matter of: Scott A. Benkie; In the Matter of: Douglas A. Crawford, Nos. 49S00-0402-DI-82 and 49S00-0402-DI-83, the Disciplinary Commission charged them with violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 7.2(b), 7.2(c)(3), 7.2(d)(2), and 7.3(c) because of wording in two of their firm's brochures to solicit clients.

In one brochure, the phrase "commitment to obtaining the best possible legal settlement for you and your family" was included as well as the term "Legal Advertisement." That was later changed to "Advertising Material." The brochures were filed with the Disciplinary Commission as required by Rule 7.3(c); the attorneys never received a letter from the commission advising them to change the language, as the commission sometimes will notify lawyers when changes need to be made.

The Supreme Court found the attorneys didn't violate Rule 7.2(c)(3) or 7.2(b) with the phrase "commitment to obtaining the best possible legal settlement" because the phrase only promises prospective clients a commitment to their cases, not that the attorneys can obtain the best possible settlement.

But the attorneys did violate the rules regarding use of a public communication containing statistical data or other information based on past performance or prediction of success and the solicitation of professional employment without the words "Advertising Material." The use of quotes from newspapers on their performance isn't allowed because the information could be edited and selectively used to mislead clients. The use of "Legal Advertisement" on earlier brochures was a violation because it may give the impression the commission or another body had reviewed it and found it to be "legal."

The Supreme Court found the fact the attorneys sought advice from the commission regarding their advertising materials mitigates the degree of their culpability; however, the rule requiring the filing of advertising materials with the commission doesn't require the commission to review materials for violations. The court noted that the requirement encourages self-policing by attorneys and preserves a record of the advertisement in case there is a dispute.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Brent Dickson and Theodore Boehm concurred while Justices Frank Sullivan and Robert Rucker concurred, except they would have found no violation of Ind. Prof. Cond. R. 7.2(d)(2).

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  1. 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?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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