ILNews

Split court chooses suspension, not disbarment

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The Indiana Supreme Court today suspended a Bloomington attorney for at least three years, though the chief justice and another justice wanted disbarment because this is the lawyer's fourth disciplinary proceeding since being admitted in 1970.

The disciplinary decision came in the form of an 11-page per curiam opinion, In the Matter of David J. Colman, No 53S00-0607-DI-248. The court found that Colman engaged in attorney misconduct in several estate planning tasks: by participating in preparation of a will for a non-relative that would have given him or his son a substantial gift; by representing a client when there was a conflict of interest due to Colman's personal interests; by failing to hold property of a client separate from his own; by failing to keep a client's funds in a clearly identified trust account; by entering into an improper business transaction with a client; and by charging an unreasonable fee.

For the misconduct charges, the court suspended Colman for at least three years starting July 1, but Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Brent Dickson dissented as to the sanctions in separate opinions.

Both noted that Colman's pattern of misconduct shows a more serious sanction is warranted, since he had been readmitted in the past following a "very substantial federal tax evasion, a federal felony conviction, and an 18-month suspension" of his law license.

"It is difficult to imagine that any future expressions of remorse about these actions could be persuasive, such that readmission might occur," the chief justice wrote. "And, it is hard to fashion an argument for the public that Respondent's behavior has been such that we might at some future date want, again, to tell clients they can entrust their own dearest matters to him. I thus vote to disbar."

Justice Dickson noted that when Colman was convicted of a federal tax evasion felony in 1996, he was part of the unanimous vote on the court not to disbar the attorney but to suspend him for a substantial time before he was eventually reinstated in 1999.

"On reflection, I should have, but did not, dissent to these per curiam decisions," Justice Dickson wrote. "I choose, however, not to make the same mistake a third time, and agree with Chief Justice Shepard that the respondent should be disbarred for his misconduct."
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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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