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Supreme Court prohibits legal practice for 4 attorneys

October 10, 2016

Four Indiana attorneys can no longer practice law in the state after the Indiana Supreme Court decided on four disciplinary cases late last week.

In the disciplinary orders posted late Friday afternoon, attorneys Adam Mears, Felix O’Neill Rippy, Joseph M. Robertson II and John D. Pierce have each either been temporarily or permanently suspended from their legal work in Indiana.

In the case related to Mears, the Supreme Court wrote Friday that it had accepted Mears’ resignation from the bar of Indiana.

Mears was indicted on five counts of wire fraud, announced Aug. 19, 2014, by U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler. Mears was accused of embezzling $648,219 from a First American Title Insurance Co. office he co-owned in Indianapolis by using the user name and password of another employee to create false user accounts.

The government said Mears was required to maintain an escrow account that was to pay only expenses associated with real estate closings, but he was alleged to have taken money from those accounts to pay business and personal expenses.

Mears pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in April of this year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to make restitution of $236,419.66 to Illinois-based First American Title Insurance Co.

With the acceptance of his resignation, Mears is prohibited from applying to be reinstated to the bar for five years. If Mears chooses to apply for reinstatement after that time, the court wrote that it could consider Mears’ misconduct when making its reinstatement decision. Additionally, the court noted that Mears would have to provide “clear and convincing evidence of the petitioner’s remorse, rehabilitation and fitness to practice law.”

Accepting Mears’ resignation does not relieve him from any liability related to his convictions, the court wrote. The costs of the proceeding were assessed against him.

The Supreme Court issued reciprocal discipline Friday against Rippy, who was admitted to practice law in both Texas and Indiana but who was suspended for 18 months in Texas, effective May 1. Texas requested that Indiana impose reciprocal discipline against Rippy, and the Supreme Court agreed, suspending him from practicing law in Indiana indefinitely.

If Rippy is reinstated in Texas at the end of his suspension, he will have to file a motion for reinstatement with the Indiana Supreme Court to restart his Indiana practice. The court noted that it would not reinstate Rippy if he falls out of compliance with his Texas probation.

The court also suspended Robertson, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to operating a vehicle while intoxicated as a Class A misdemeanor.

Robertson, a Jackson County attorney, drove while intoxicated to the Shelby County courthouse for a hearing in September 2014 and began making physical sexual advances toward the court’s receptionist. A breath test showed that his alcohol concentration equivalent was 0.15.

An immediate contempt hearing was called, and Robertson had to lean on the rail in front of the bench in order to keep himself steady. He was jailed and released after his ACE fell to zero, forcing a continuance of the hearing he had come to participate in and delaying all other matters before the court that day.

The Supreme Court wrote Friday that Robertson’s actions violated professional conduct and admission and discipline rules. The court suspended him for one year, effective Nov. 14, with 90 days actively served and the remainder stayed subject to completion of at least two years of probation.

Robertson’s probation is subject to three conditions:  full compliance with a monitoring agreement with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, no criminal or professional disciplinary rules violations, and an immediate report of any probation violations. The costs of the proceeding were assessed against him.

Finally, the justices suspended Pierce for noncooperation with a disciplinary commission investigation into a grievance. The order required Pierce to show cause in writing with 10 days, a deadline he did not meet. Robertson has yet to show cause.

Pierce’s suspension will remain in effect until he cooperates fully with the investigation, the investigation or any other disciplinary hearings are disposed of, or until further order of the Supreme Court. Additionally, the court also ordered Pierce to reimburse the commission $527.14 for the cost of prosecuting the proceeding.
 

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