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.
James E. Chovanec of Cass County has been suspended from the practice of law for 12 months, without automatic reinstatement, beginning Dec. 12, 2011. An order dated Nov. 10, 2011, approved a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline and found Chovanec violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.3(a) knowingly making false statements to a tribunal; 3.4(c) knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal; 5.3(b) failure to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of a nonlawyer employee over whom the lawyer has direct supervisory authority is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and 5.3(c) ordering or ratifying the misconduct of nonlawyer assistants or failing to take reasonable remedial action with respect to the misconduct of nonlawyer assistants under the lawyer’s supervision. Chovanec, who represented debtors in bankruptcy matters, had his secretary sign his name on documents despite Bankruptcy Rule 9011(a) and (b) that requires an attorney of record to sign most court documents and to make certain certifications about the fillings. His secretary mistakenly filed a petition in the Northern District of Indiana, and she then signed and filed a motion to dismiss. Chovanec failed to appear at the motion hearing to consider the dismissal and at two subsequent hearings to show cause why he shouldn’t be held in contempt. In September 2005, the judge found him in contempt and fined him $1,000, prohibiting him from filing any more bankruptcies in the Northern District until he petitioned for restatement before the chief judge. The following day, Chovanec filed 10 more bankruptcy petitions in that District and the judge issued another show cause order. Chovanec obtained limited reinstatement prior to the scheduled hearing, but the lawyer failed to appear and the bankruptcy judge again found Chovanec in contempt and prohibited him from representing anyone in the Northern District until he paid a $500 fine and successfully petitioned for reinstatement. A conditional agreement for discipline found Chovanec cooperated with the disciplinary process and that this case was “precipitated primarily by Respondent’s lack of training and supervision of his staff rather than an intentional plan to deceive the court.” But in aggravation, the parties cited Chovanec’s past two disciplinary matters from 1994 and 1998, when he received a 30-day suspension and 12-month suspension respectively. Justices Brent Dickson and Robert Rucker agreed with the 12-month suspension, while Justice Frank Sullivan wrote that he concurred only because of the conditional agreement. If not for that submitted disciplinary action, he would have voted for more severe sanction. Chief Justice Randall Shepard and Justice Steven David dissented, believing the agreed discipline is insufficient.
Timothy A. Doyle of Marion County has had his suspension for noncooperation with the disciplinary process converted to an indefinite suspension. The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Nov. 1, 2011, that found more than six months had passed since Doyle was suspended for noncooperation, following a March 18, 2011, order. The indefinite suspension took effect immediately. To be readmitted to practice law, Doyle must cure the causes of all suspensions in effect and successfully petition the court for reinstatement.
Thomas P. Burke of Hamilton County resigned from the bar effective Nov. 1, 2011. The Indiana Supreme Court accepted his resignation and concluded the disciplinary proceeding against Burke. He must fulfill the duties under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(26), and Burke will be ineligible for reinstatement for five years.•