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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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