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Disciplinary Actions - 9/28/11

September 28, 2011

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission brings charges against attorneys who have violated the state’s rules for admission to the bar and Rules of Professional Conduct. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brings charges against judges, judicial officers, or judicial candidates for misconduct. Details of attorneys’ and judges’ actions for which they are being disciplined by the Supreme Court will be included unless they are not a matter of public record under the court’s rules.

Suspension
Arvil R. Howe of St. Joseph County has been suspended from the practice of law for 180 days, with 60 days actively served and the remainder stayed subject to completion of at least two years of probation. The suspension, which begins Oct. 18, 2011, was issued in a Supreme Court order filed Sept. 6, 2011, and it will stay in effect until terminated pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(4) and (18).

Howe violated Indiana Professional Conduct rules 8.(b): prohibiting committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer; and 23(11.1)(a)(2): failure to notify the commission of a guilty finding. The commission cited three allegations against Howe involving operating a vehicle while intoxicated in its verified complaint in March 2011. Howe admitted to the charged misconduct and reports he has taken steps to address his alcohol abuse.

Suspension Extension
Jerry T. Drook of Grant County had his suspension from the practice of law, in effect at the time of this order, extended for an additional 10 days. The extension began Sept. 9, 2011. The extension, issued in a Supreme Court order filed Sept. 8, 2011, resulted from Drook mailing, thereby filing and serving, an appellant’s brief in a case before the Court of Appeals on the day his original suspension was scheduled to begin. While Drook indicated that he mistakenly believed his suspension was set to begin Sept. 12, the court said, “A violation of a disciplinary suspension, even if merely careless, will not be condoned.” The court ordered the suspension be followed by automatic reinstatement, unless other specified action was taken.

Public Reprimand
John R. Springer of Sullivan County received a public reprimand in a Supreme Court order filed Sept. 12, 2011. Springer violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(d) which prohibits engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. While serving as a chief deputy prosecutor in Sullivan County in 2010, he was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and later pled guilty to OWI in a manner that endangers a person, a Class A misdemeanor. Springer was sentenced to one year in jail (with all but six days suspended), fined, placed on probation, and suspended from the prosecutor’s office without pay for 30 days.

Robert W. Hammerle of Marion County received a public reprimand in a Supreme Court order filed Sept. 12, 2011. Hammerle violated Indiana Professional Conduct rules prohibiting 1.5(a): charging an unreasonable fee; and 1.8(a): entering into a business transaction (modification of a fee agreement) with a client unless the client is given reasonable opportunity to seek independent counsel and the client consents in writing to the transaction. Violation of Rule 1.5(a) is based solely on Hammerle charging a fee in excess of the original fee amount. The commission did not contend that the total fee the client paid would have been unreasonable if Hammerle had complied with Rule 1.8(a) in modifying the fee agreement.•

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