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Woman committed UPL, forgery in divorce filing

December 19, 2014

A Marion County woman who forged a name and attorney number on a divorce filing had her criminal convictions upheld Friday by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The woman gave false attorney information because she didn’t want the litigant to have to watch a video about filing pro se.

Teresa Rogers was put in touch with Erica Dumes to help her file a divorce. According to the court record, Dumes is not an attorney but may work in some type of legal services. Rogers paid Dumes to file her dissolution petition. When the Marion County Clerk’s office told Dumes that she or Rogers would have to watch a video about filing pro se, Dumes later decided to put down an attorney name and number on the petition.  

She listed Michelle Smith, a former Marion County Small Claims judge, but included George Plews’ attorney number. The clerk’s office did not immediately discover the error, but contacted Indiana State Police upon doing so.

Dumes was charged with Class C felony forgery and Class B misdemeanor unauthorized practice of law. At the start of her trial, a stipulation was entered that said Smith’s signature was on the appearance form with Plews’ number, but neither attorney gave Dumes permission to use their information.  Dumes did not object to the stipulation.

After she was convicted of both charges, Dumes appealed in Erica N. Dumes v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1404-CR-170, claiming there was no evidence she was not authorized to file the appearance. But the judges pointed to the stipulation and her attorney’s decision to not object to it. In addition, there is evidence that Dumes told Rogers that she “had to put” Smith’s name on the petition or else she wouldn’t be able to file it without watching a video. This evidence supports her forgery conviction.

In addition, the evidence shows Dumes accepted a fee to prepare and/or file the dissolution and she is not admitted to the Indiana bar.

The COA noted that almost two years had passed since the filing of the petition and Dumes’ criminal trial, and that Rogers could not proceed with her divorce pro se because Smith was still listed as her attorney.

 

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