Three Hoosier lawyers are facing disciplinary sanctions after the Indiana Supreme Court handed down orders suspending their law licenses.
The high court suspended Byron J. Davis’ license for at least one year without automatic reinstatement, effective July 19. Grant E. Helms was retroactively suspended for 365 days beginning May 20, with 90 days served and the remainder stayed subject to probation and monitoring. Robert E. Love will begin serving his 180-day suspension on Aug. 30.
In Davis’ case, the Muncie lawyer was found to have violated seven Indiana Professional Conduct Rules and five Admission and Discipline Rules. Each of the violations stemmed from a three-count disciplinary action related to Davis’ representation of a personal injury plaintiff. At the same time, Davis’ firm was serving as special counsel in the plaintiff’s bankruptcy case.
Any proceeds from the personal injury case were to be turned over to the bankruptcy trustee. The personal injury lawsuit settled for $68,000, but according to count 1, Davis failed to remit the proceeds for months.
Davis eventually took the money out of his trust account before finally giving the funds to the trustee in July 2019.
The previous April, Davis had made multiple transfers to and from his trust account without adequate documentation. As a result, he did not have sufficient funds in his account on behalf of the bankruptcy case. When asked to provide records for his trust account, Davis handed over records that did not correlate with what was supplied by a bank.
Finally, Davis told the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission that he thought he was allowed to take his fees and costs prior to sending the settlement funds to the bankruptcy trustee. He later admitted that he purposely tried to mislead the commission by submitting inconsistent records.
Davis was found to have violated Professional Conduct Rules 1.15(a), 1.15(d), 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(c), 8.1(a), 8.4(b) and 8.4(c), as well as Admission and Discipline Rules 23(29)(a) and 23(29)(c)(4) – (7). He is also under a separate suspension for his noncompliance with CLE requirements.
His one-year suspension was effective immediately. The case is In the Matter of: Byron J. Davis, 20S-DI-420.
Helms, of Indianapolis, was also already suspended when the justices accepted his discipline agreement July 19.
Helms was arrested in May 2020 and pleaded guilty in January to possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony entered as a Class A misdemeanor. He has been under an interim suspension since May 20.
Helms and the Disciplinary Commission agreed that he violated Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(b). The high court approved the agreed discipline of a 365-day suspension beginning May 20, with 90 days actively served the rest stayed subject to Helms’ completion of 24 months of probation with monitoring by the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.
While in probation, Helms must
- Submit to at least one random drug test per month and cannot consume any mind-altering substances unless validly prescribed.
- Not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.
- Report any violations of his probation to the Disciplinary Commission, including providing drug tests results.
Helms can move to terminate his probation if he is fully complaint for 12 consecutive months. If he violates probation, the stay will be vacated and the balance of his suspension will be actively served without automatic reinstatement.
His case is In the Matter of: Grant E. Helms, 21S-DI-262.
Love’s case began in September 2020, when the Commission filed a complaint against the Fort Wayne lawyer. Love did not timely file an answer, and the hearing officer later denied his request to reopen evidence.
At issue was Love’s representation of two plaintiffs in a personal injury case. Love negotiated a settlement, and the defense insurer, The General, issued four checks to Love: $9,000 for one plaintiff, $5,000 to the other plaintiff and two checks for $1,000 payable to Geico, the plaintiffs’ insurer.
Love asked his clients to endorse all four checks and cash them at his own bank. But he failed to tell Geico about its two checks or provide the insurer with the money. Geico later learned about the funds and, after months of trying to contact Love, forced him to admit that he owed the insurer $2,000.
Love did not timely cooperate with the commission’s investigation, according to the Supreme Court’s July 20 order. He has been disciplined twice before, once in 1996 and again in 2014.
Finding that Love violated Professional Conduct Rules 1.1, 1.15(d), 8.1(b) and 8.4(b), the court suspended him for 180 days with automatic reinstatement beginning Aug. 30.
Justice Steven David would have suspended Love for two years, with 180 days actively served and the remainder stayed subject to two years of probation with monitoring by another attorney.
Love’s case is In the Matter of: Robert E. Love, 20S-DI-556.