A Kokomo attorney who took nearly $60,000 from clients but never completed their legal matters – and later abruptly abandoned his law practice to move to Australia – has been disbarred by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Bradley Hamilton faced 11 counts of misconduct, which involve doing little to no work for clients who hired him on bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy cases, and misrepresenting a petition had been filed. One count charts 22 clients identified by Hamilton’s attorney surrogate, Brent Dechert, as having been abandoned by Hamilton with legal matters still pending and to whom unearned fees are still owed.
The per curiam opinion handed down Wednesday says Hamilton was paid $58,366 by the clients indentified in the 11 counts. Hamilton enlisted Dechert as his attorney surrogate two days before he left for Australia. At that time, only approximately $2,000 was in Hamilton’s attorney trust account.
The hearing officer recommended the justices disbar Hamilton, which they did in In the Matter of: Bradley D. Hamilton, 49S00-1412-DI-752. The justices found Hamilton violated eight rules of Indiana Professional Conduct – 1.3: failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; 1.4(a)(3): failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter; 1.4(a)(4): failure to comply promptly with a client’s reasonable requests for information; 1.4(b): failure to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions; 1.16(d): failure to protect a client’s interests upon termination of representation, and failure to refund an unearned fee promptly upon termination of representation; 8.4(b): committing a criminal act (conversion or theft) that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer; 8.4(c): engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; and 8.4(d): engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Before leaving for Australia, Hamilton did not “reconcile his trust account; he looted all but a small portion of it and left behind no records indicating to which client(s) that remaining sum belonged. He did not notify clients of the status of their cases; when clients inquired, Respondent mostly avoided them and in some instances lied to them. Respondent did not refund unearned fees; he stole them. Most clients were not notified of his impending move out of the country, and Respondent continued to accept new clients (and their money) even as the abandonment of his law practice was imminent. Finally, while Respondent did enlist the aid of Dechert as an attorney surrogate, Respondent did so at the last minute and in a manner that precluded Dechert, despite his commendable efforts to triage the harm caused by Respondent, from being able to fully protect the interests of Respondent’s clients,” the opinion says.
The opinion notes that Hamilton is the subject of 11 separate pending show cause proceedings and is currently suspended for noncooperation, dues nonpayment and CLE noncompliance.