City attorney who falsified email suspended for 180 days

An Indianapolis city attorney who gave inaccurate information to a news reporter then tried to destroy evidence of his misconduct has been suspended from the practice of law in Indiana for 180 days.

In an order posted Thursday in In the Matter of: Mark J. Pizur, 49S00-1612-DI-631, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously decided to suspend Mark Pizur for deceitful conduct dating back to November 2015, when he was working for the Indianapolis Office of Corporation Counsel. That month, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control removed dogs from a kennel owned by Paul Upton. One month later, 14 puppies were born from those dogs, and at least five of the puppies died.

When a news reporter sought information from the ACC, Pizur sent an email to the reporter saying Upton had not notified ACC or the city that any of the dogs were pregnant. Pizur was quoted in the reporter’s story, but at a subsequent hearing, Upton told the court that statement was inaccurate.

Pizur then falsely told the court that he had been misquoted, so Upton submitted a public records request seeking emails between Pizur and the reporter. Before he provided the requested emails, Pizur deleted the statement that was quoted in the article. However, the news outlet eventually sent Upton a certified copy of the original email, thus showing that Pizur had altered the requested documents.

Pizur eventually acknowledged that he had altered the email and agreed in a Conditional Agreement for Discipline that he had violated multiple Indiana Professional Conduct Rules, including 3.3(a)(1), 4.1(a), 8.4(c) and 8.4(d). He and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission agreed to a 180-day suspension with automatic reinstatement, which the Indiana Supreme Court approved last week.

Pizur’s suspension will begin Nov. 22, and he will be reinstated at the end of a 180-day period, provided no other suspensions are in effect. The costs of the proceedings are assessed against him.

Also on Thursday, the justices unanimously suspended an Evansville attorney for pretending to be a deputy prosecutor to get out of a traffic citation. In an order in In the Matter of: Brian J. Oberst, 82S00-1709-DI-605, Oberst was suspended for 60 days after he was convicted of Class A misdemeanor impersonation a public servant. The conviction came after Oberst was pulled over for a traffic infraction twice and displayed a badge to the officer who stopped him both times. During the second incident, Oberst also orally indicated he was a Vanderburgh County deputy prosecutor.

Oberst was released without a traffic citation for either stop, though he was neither a deputy prosecutor nor a law enforcement officer at the time of either stop. He was eventually charged and convicted in two separate cases with Class A misdemeanor impersonation of a public servant, but pursuant to a plea agreement, the first of the two cases was dismissed with no conviction upon successful completion of probation. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld his conviction in an Oct. 10 opinion.

Both Oberst and the commission agreed he violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 8.4(b) and (c), which prohibit committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s honesty and engaging in dishonest or deceitful conduct. The parties agreed to a 60-day suspension with automatic reinstatement, and the justices approved that agreement.

Like Pizur, Oberst’s suspension will begin Nov. 22, and the costs of the proceeding were assessed against him.

Finally, the high court converted Sven Marshall’s suspension for noncooperation to an indefinite suspension in a disciplinary order issued Thursday in In the Matter of: Sven E. Marshall, 71S00-1703-DI-143. The South Bend attorney was first suspended in May for failing to cooperate with the commission concerning a grievance against him.

The commission has now moved to convert that suspension into an indefinite suspension, and Marshall has not responded to that motion. Finding that more than 90 days have passed since Marshall’s suspension, the court agreed and converted his suspension to an indefinite one, effectively immediately. If Marshall wants to be readmitted, he must “cure the causes of all suspensions in effect” and successfully petition the court for reinstatement pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(18)(b).

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