2 found in contempt for practicing law

The Indiana Supreme Court has fined two attorneys after finding them in contempt for practicing law while one was suspended and after one had resigned from the bar nearly 10 years ago.

The justices handed down the disciplinary orders Monday in the cases of Lake County attorney John M. Hughes and Marion County attorney Jeffrey P. Ayres.

The Disciplinary Commission asserted last year that Hughes, who resigned from the bar Feb. 27, 2006, was holding himself out as an attorney for a construction company. Hughes sent written correspondences in which he identified himself as “esquire” and “in house counsel” and threatened legal action against the recipient if a mechanic’s lien filed against the company was not released, according to his disciplinary action.

Hughes never responded to the Supreme Court’s show cause order, according to the court’s contempt order.

Ayers, who was suspended in July 2015 for noncompliance with continuing legal education, was retained later that month in a bankruptcy case and in September filed an appearance and motion to recall warrant in Carmel City Court on behalf of a different client, according to the Disciplinary Commission.

Ayers admitted to practicing law, but claimed to have sent an unverified letter to Disciplinary Commission Executive Secretary G. Michael Witte seeking an extension of time to complete his CLE requirements and pay the necessary fees, and he believed an extension would be granted.

“Respondent’s professed belief was not reasonable under the circumstances. By the time he sent the letter to the Executive Director, this Court already had ordered Respondent’s suspension and the CLE Commission was without authority to grant an extension. Further, while the CLE Commission, upon sufficient cause shown, may grant an extension prior to this Court’s issuance of a suspension order, it may do so only upon the filing of a ‘verified petition’ filed ‘as much in advance of the applicable compliance date as the reasons which form the basis of the request afford.’ See Ind. Admission and Discipline Rule 29(8)(d). Respondent’s unverified letter, sent over six months after the applicable compliance date, fails to satisfy these criteria,” his disciplinary action states.

Both men were ordered to pay a $500 fine within 60 days of Feb. 1for being found in contempt. Justice Steven David dissented in part in the order pertaining to Hughes, believing a larger fine should be imposed.

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