An Indianapolis attorney accused of misusing funds in her lawyer trust account can no longer practice law in Indiana after the Supreme Court accepted her resignation.
In an order handed down Tuesday, the high court accepted Deborah Agard’s resignation from the bar, effective immediately. Agard, of the Law Office of Deborah M. Agard, tendered her resignation after a disciplinary complaint was opened against her on Oct. 31.
According to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's complaint, Agard's trouble began in November 2015, when she was voluntarily admitted to the Florida Recovery Center in Gainesville, Florida for a three-month stay. The Marion Superior Court appointed a surrogate to oversee Agard's business accounts, including her attorney trust account.
The trial court eventually instructed the surrogate to close Agard's practice, deposit all client funds with the Marion County clerk and close the trust account. The surrogate then approved 19 of Agard's clients for attorney fee refunds for a total of $24,108.32.
However, only $9,954.19 was available in Agard's trust account. The county clerk distributed those funds among the 19 clients.
When questioned by the commission about the deficiency in her trust, Agard said she was unable to account for it, but posited three possible reasons: the fact that she had no control over the account while in Florida, that not all of her client files were delivered to her when her practice was closed, and that the owners of the rental computers in her office would not allow her to access the computers after the office was closed.
However, the commission's complaint alleges between 2013 and 2015, Agard disbursed at least 27 checks from the trust to her law firm without proper authorization. The checks ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars and either lacked a stated purpose, or were labeled as "bill transfer" or "Payment -- Thank you."
Further, the commission alleged that on at least four occasions between June 2014 and October 2015, Agard comingled either firm or personal funds with client funds in the trust and made disbursements from the trust for business or personal purposes. Like the unauthorized checks, the disbursements ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars and were labeled for purposes such as "Phone."
Based on each of those allegations, the commission alleged Agard violated several rules, including:
- Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(a), for allowing a deficiency to occur in her trust and initiating four online/electronic transfers
- Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23, Section 29(a)(4), for comingling funds
- Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23, Section 29(a)(5) for making at least 27 unauthorized disbursements and at least four unauthorized online/electronic or bank initiated debits from the trust account
- Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23, Section 29(a)(7) by maintaining files on a leased computer and losing access to the files
According to the Tuesday order, Agard resigned as an acknowledgement that she could not successfully defender herself against the allegations in the complaint. That disciplinary proceeding has now been dismissed as moot.
Agard cannot petition for reinstatement for five years. Should she seek reinstatement, approval would require clear and convincing evidence of her remorse, rehabilitation and fitness to practice law.
The costs of the proceeding are assessed against Agard.