The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission is recommending the justices discipline Indianapolis attorney William Conour for allegedly settling a client’s case without the client’s knowledge and depositing the settlement into his trust account.
Conour is accused by federal authorities of stealing more than $2.5 million from clients and faces a charge of wire fraud. The April 27 criminal complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana alleges that he defrauded clients by using money from new settlements to pay for old settlements and debts. That federal complaint mentioned an instance where Conour didn’t tell a client that a settlement had been accepted, took the money on the client’s behalf and never sent the settlement to the client.
That settlement dispute is at the heart of the Disciplinary Commission’s verified complaint for disciplinary action, filed May 24. According to the verified complaint, an Indiana resident was severely injured on a construction project in Delaware in July 2010 and hired Conour and his law firm to represent him in a personal injury action. Conour allegedly settled the case without that client’s consent or knowledge for $450,000 and deposited the money into his trust account. The check contains a signature purporting to be the client's, but he maintains he didn’t sign the check.
G. Michael Witte, executive secretary of the Disciplinary Commission, wrote that based on this conduct, Conour violated Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2(a) by not getting the client’s consent and approval before settling; 1.4(a)(1) by failing to promptly inform the client about the settlement, the amount and the deposit of the settlement funds without first receiving the client’s informed consent; 1.4(b) by failing to explain the settlement terms and amount to the client to the extent reasonably necessary to allow the client to make an informed decision about it; and 1.15(a) for not safeguarding the client’s settlement proceeds.
It will be up to the Indiana justices to decide what, if any, discipline Conour will receive. Conour has no history of discipline and is currently listed as in good standing with the Indiana Roll of Attorneys. He was admitted to practice in 1974.