A split Indiana Supreme Court voted to immediately disbar an Indianapolis attorney who pleaded guilty to one count of willfully making a false tax return. The two dissenting justices believed the attorney should be suspended for three years without automatic reinstatement.
In the case In the Matter of: Robert E. Lehman, No. 49S00-0808-DI-471, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Theodore Boehm and Brent Dickson voted to disbar Robert Lehman from the practice of law immediately. In 2008, Lehman was charged in federal court with three counts of understating his income on federal tax returns for 2002, 2003, and 2004. He pleaded guilty to one count, was fined $10,000 and sentenced to eight months in prison followed by one year of supervised release.
Lehman already has three disciplinary actions on his record from 1997, 2004, and 2007 for matters while representing clients or conduct at trial.
The high court found Lehman violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 8.4(b), committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects; and 8.4(c), engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
"Respondent pled guilty to a federal felony involving false swearing and misrepresentation, he acted out of a selfish motivation, and he has a substantial disciplinary history. In addition, he has neither challenged the hearing officer's report nor argued any mitigating facts. Under these circumstances, the Court concludes disbarment is warranted," the per curiam opinion stated.
Justices Frank Sullivan and Robert Rucker concurred with the majority, except they would impose a three-year suspension without automatic reinstatement.