Supreme Court to disbarred attorney: Refund money or go to jail

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The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered a former attorney who illegally represented a client after he was disbarred more than 20 years ago to pay back the funds he received or he'll be going to jail.

In a disciplinary ordered handed down Monday, Justice Steve David, writing as acting chief justice, explained former Indianapolis attorney Timothy P. O’Connor was disbarred in March 1990 for negligent representation, misappropriation of client funds, failure to refund unearned fees and failure to communicate with clients. O’Connor petitioned for reinstatement in 2011, but took no further steps to advance that action.

Despite his disbarment, O’Connor was paid $1,200 in 2014 to represent a client in an expungement case and was subsequently charged with the unauthorized practice of law, a Class B misdemeanor, to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail. Then in April 2017, the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission issued a show cause motion requiring O’Connor to respond within 15 days and explain why he should not be held in contempt. O’Connor has yet to respond to the show cause motion.

As a result, the high court determined O’Connor did practice law in violation of his disbarment, as the commission alleged, and ordered him to pay a sum of $500 within 30 days of the Monday order. O’Connor was also ordered to disgorge the $1,200 he was paid in legal feels within the 30-day period, and to provide the court with a verified accounting and report of the disgorgement within five days of payment.

If O’Connor fails to pay the fines imposed against him, the high court ordered that the Sheriff of the Supreme Court must take him into custody and turn him over to the Department of Correction for a 30-day sentence. Though he won’t be required to pay back the money if he serves a jail sentence, O’Connor is prohibited from ever applying for reinstatement, even if he pays the funds.

All justices concurred, except David, who dissented and would have imposed more significant sanctions.

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