Supreme Court disciplines attorneys for noncompliance

January 16, 2017

Two Indiana attorneys are facing disciplinary measures after failing to comply with various court orders.

The Indiana Supreme Court ordered disciplinary actions against Ralph Staples, an Indianapolis attorney, and Donald James, a Fort Wayne attorney, on Friday.

Staples’ discipline, a public reprimand, traces back to February 2013, when he appeared as successor counsel for a criminal defendant but failed to appear for a pretrial conference and did not timely respond to the court’s inquiries about his absence. Then, when Staples’ client was hospitalized in July 2013, the attorney was ordered to file a motion to continue with verification that his client was in the hospital, but failed to do so and also failed to appear at the ensuing show cause proceedings.

Staples was eventually found to be in contempt, but did not appear for a sanctions hearing.  He also failed again to appear at a hearing with his client, so the court found him in contempt a second time. When the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission demanded either a response from Staples or his compliance with a subpoena duces tecum, the attorney did not timely respond, resulting in two show cause proceedings that were eventually dismissed with costs when Staples eventually cooperated.

Staples was placed on probation, and in a Conditional Agreement for Discipline, the parties agreed that the attorney violated Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 3.2, 3.4(c) and 8.1(b) and Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(10)(e). The Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand against Staples and assessed the costs of the proceedings against him.

The justices chose to suspend James from the practice of law in Indiana effective Friday following his failure to respond to a September 2016 show cause order related to two separate disciplinary cases.  The court issued the order to show cause as to why James should not be suspended after he failed to cooperate with the commission’s investigation into two grievances filed against him.  The commission also filed a Request for Ruling and to Tax Costs, to which James has also not responded.

The state’s high court ordered James’ license be suspended, effective immediately.  The suspension in each case will continue until James cooperates with the commission’s investigation or until further order of the Supreme Court. The Fort Wayne attorney was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him, but the court did not order reimbursement of the costs of the second case.

The full order against James can be read here


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