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Past associations with Conour get lawyers named in civil suits

August 28, 2013
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William Conour’s multi-million-dollar fraud has produced an avalanche of state and federal lawsuits naming as defendants several attorneys who used to work with the once-prominent personal-injury and wrongful-death attorney.

In state court, claims name former partners including some who helped the federal government press the wire-fraud case to which Conour pleaded guilty last month. The government accuses Conour of defrauding at least 25 clients of more than $4.5 million.

In federal court, a filing this month claims Conour and his former law firm defaulted on a line of credit, owing in total more than $600,000. Separately, Conour’s former legal malpractice carrier has sued to void coverage for his acts that it claims were intentional and therefore outside the scope of the policy.

Conour is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17, but the civil cases arising as a result of his criminal conduct may determine the liability of his former associates, help define the pool of money available for victims, and resolve who gets priority for restitution – Conour’s defrauded clients or his creditors.

The ripple effect

“I have never seen anything like this massive tragedy in nearly 40 years dealing with problems caused by Indiana lawyers,” Indianapolis attorney Jon Pactor said in an email. Pactor has filed suits in Marion Superior Court naming two former Conour partners in litigation brought by defrauded former Conour clients.

Pactor has named Thomas Doehrman, Conour’s former colleague at Conour Doehrman Attorneys at Law, in a case filed on behalf of Bradley Whiteman, a Brownsburg ironworker injured on the job in 1995. The suit claims Whiteman was deprived of his settlement that Conour Doehrman negotiated in 1999.

“Conour Doehrman negligently constructed the settlement in such a way that the Whitemans will not receive the full amount of their settlement,” the suit alleges.

Doehrman’s attorney, Philip Kalamaros of South Bend, said in an email that he couldn’t comment on pending litigation. But as an affirmative defense in the case, Doehrman argues in court filings that he was never in partnership with Conour.

Doehrman “admits his corporation shared office space with William Conour from approximately 1988-2003,” the response to the suit says, but “Conour Doehrman was never in business.”

The response further “denies that the ‘law firm’ settled the case … denies ‘Conour Doehrman’ did anything at all and denies that this defendant was negligent in any way.”

Indianapolis attorney James R. Fisher, however, argues in a separate suit that Doehrman is jointly and severally liable for more than $800,000 in unpaid installments from a structured settlement. In a phone interview, Fisher said, “With law firms, as a general case, if you hold yourself out to the world as a law firm and a partnership, as far as liability goes, you are, regardless of the agreement you have inside the office.”

Conour Doehrman appeared to be a partnership, presented itself as a partnership and advertised as a partnership; it did nothing to inform consumers that it wasn’t a partnership, Fisher said.

Fisher last month sued Conour and Doehrman in Marion Superior Court on behalf of Davis Beals Sr., Loretta Beals and Kristen Beals. The Bealses were injured in a deadly crash when their vehicle was hit by a tractor-trailer; Conour Doehrman negotiated settlements. The suit accuses Doehrman of legal malpractice, conversion, securities fraud and negligence.

Daughter Kristen was left permanently disabled, with her parents serving as adult guardians, the suit says, but payments from her structured settlement stopped coming in January, depriving Kristen of monthly payments of $1,677 through the year 2047. Her parents also were deprived of 82 additional monthly payments from a structured settlement, the suit claims.

Also named in the suit Fisher filed is an entity called Structured Settlement Investment Services Ltd. The suit alleges Conour Doehrman used the entity as a shell to facilitate annual fund transfers to meet obligations of structured settlements, including those of the Bealses.

The entity “is believed to be a fictitious entity which was (doing business as) the Conour-Doehrman law firm,” Fisher alleges in the suit.

Regarding Structured Settlement Investment Services, Fisher said, “The only place that name appeared … was with the Ohio bank that set up the trust that Conour was funding on an annual basis. … As far as we can tell, it was nothing but him.”

Lawsuit by association

Pactor also has filed a suit naming former Conour firm attorney Timothy Devereux, now a partner at Ladendorf & Ladendorf. The suit alleges that after he left the Conour Devereux Hammond firm in December 2011, Devereux breached his duty by failing to inform his clients, who were being represented by co-counsel Conour, that he knew Conour was dishonest. Around the time he left the firm and afterward, Devereux was talking with investigators about Conour.

The plaintiff, Jim Love, had been injured in a construction accident in 2008 and retained a Conour firm that became Conour Devereux Hammond. The suit alleges that Devereux should have informed the Loves about Conour’s dishonesty as Devereux was ceasing to be their attorney. A few months later, Conour settled Love’s case without Love’s knowledge and stole the $120,000 settlement, some of which Conour earned, according to Pactor.

“My clients have alleged that Mr. Devereux should have informed them sufficiently about Mr. Conour so that they could have made an informed decision whether to stay with him,” Pactor said.

Devereux and his attorney in the matter, David Kasper, said they couldn’t comment about the case. Court filings in response to the complaint deny Devereux had a duty to inform the Loves when he learned of an FBI investigation.

The defense also claims that any liability should be reduced by the fault of Conour and by contributory fault of the Loves. Devereux’s letter notifying them of his departure from Conour’s firm stated, “You need only send a letter to the Conour law firm advising it that you have chosen to have me continue to represent you.”

Another suit filed in Marion Superior Court names Conour and co-defendants attorneys Thomas A. Hardin, Thomas Manges and Shine & Hardin LLP. In that case, Dustin Webb alleges that attorneys received funds from a settlement Conour negotiated for Webb’s father, Charles Webb, who died as a result of an Allen County vehicle crash.

“Defendants failed to pay plaintiff his portion of the funds,” the suit charges, while acknowledging Webb was “currently unaware of any knowledge (co-defendants) had regarding the wrongful actions” of Conour.

Co-defendants in the case filed a cross-claim against Conour that states, “Any damages that (Webb) has alleged are the direct and proximate result” of Conour’s conduct.

In U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, ACF 2006 Corp. v. William Conour, et al., 1:13-cv01286, was filed Aug. 13. ACF, a successor to Advocate Capital, claims that as of July 13, Conour owed $559,900 on a defaulted line of credit, plus fees and expenses exceeding $50,000 and 24 percent annual interest.

Devereux, former Conour associate Jeffrey A. Hammond, and their respective current firms, Ladendorf & Ladendorf and Cohen & Malad LLP, are named co-defendants in that case, which seeks to recover damages from fees paid to the attorneys by former Conour firm clients on cases the attorneys took with them after they departed.

A lawsuit aiming to deny coverage under Conour’s malpractice policy is also pending in the federal court in Indianapolis. Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co. v. William Conour, et al., 1:12-cv-01671, names a host of former Conour associates as co-defendants. Judge William T. Lawrence set a trial date of Jan. 12, 2015.

Devereux said the ACF suit is welcome in a sense because it will help clarify the priority of claims against a restitution fund held by the federal court in Conour’s criminal case. “We’re sort of off the map at this point,” he said. “Somebody has got to work out what’s the proper division of those fees. … I need a court to tell me where the money goes,” Devereux said.

So far, the restitution fund includes just a few thousand dollars more than the $450,000 donation that Conour made to Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, which the university has returned to the court.

“It’s a horrible situation and nobody’s happy with anything,” Fisher said. “It bothers lawyers who are involved in it as well as those who aren’t.”

“The emotional pain of (Conour’s) former clients, his family, his former friends (including me), and his fellow attorneys runs very deep,” Pactor wrote. “He also delivered a fierce body blow to the entire legal profession.”•
 

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  • Who's really guilty?
    What good would it have done if ANY of these attorneys, mentioned above, reported Conour to the IN Disciplinary Commission? He WAS turned by an attorney in his office in 2006 when Conour refused to pay a mutual client in a nursing home her settlement money. What did the Commission do? NOTHING. Not a peep, a warning to the public, or even a slap on the hand. Worse yet, they continued to let him practice and defraud more clients, ruin more lives, and steal millions. Why then, isn’t the Disciplinary Commission being held liable for being complicit?

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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