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Attorney suspended for lack of action in client cases

August 17, 2016

An Indianapolis attorney has been suspended for at least one year after he failed to take action on three clients’ matters and did not refund unearned flat fees. One justice believed his actions warranted disbarment.

Kenneth C. Kern was hired by one client to obtain a hardship driver’s license and settle an IRS tax lien. The client paid $1,900, but Kern took no action on the matters and didn’t keep in contact with his client. The client eventually fired Kern, who failed to return unearned fees.

Two other clients paid Kern flat fees for criminal record expungements, but he was largely unresponsive to their inquiries on the status of their cases and also took no action toward resolution of their legal issues. Kern also failed to refund any portion of unearned fees in these cases and failed to cooperate with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission’s investigation into the expungement clients’ cases.

By a 4-1 vote, the justices last week suspended Kern for at least one year without automatic reinstatement. The court found he violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules: 1.3: failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; 1.4(a): failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and respond promptly to 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 refund an unearned fee upon termination of representation; and 8.1(b): knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority.

Justice Steven David voted to disbar Kern, who has two prior disciplinary cases and also been the subject of three recent show cause proceedings for failing to cooperate with disciplinary investigations. The suspension begins Sept. 22.

Kern was admitted to practice in 1965.

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