Lawyer who offered client phony settlement suspended

An Indianapolis attorney who falsely told her client that a $40,000 settlement offer had been made by a party she hadn’t even sued has been suspended from the practice of law.

Felicia L. Howells was suspended for 180 days without automatic reinstatement per a published order approving statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline issued Tuesday by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The order says a client retained Howells to sue the Liberty Hall correctional re-entry and work release program facility at the Marion County Jail. Howells sent tort claim notices to Liberty Hall, the Indiana Department of Correction, the Indiana Attorney General and Liberty Hall’s insurer, the order says, and led the client to believe a suit was pending and Liberty Hall was willing to negotiate a settlement, neither of which was true.

Howells “communicated to Client a fictitious settlement offer of $20,000, which Client declined. (Howells) then communicated to Client a fictitious settlement offer of $40,000 plus attorney fees, which Client accepted. Client discovered the ruse when no settlement funds were forthcoming and (Howells) confessed the truth to Client,” the order says.

Per the agreement with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, the parties stipulate Howells violated these Rules of Professional Conduct:

• 1.3: Failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness;

• 1.4(a)(3): Failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter;

• 1.4(b): Failing to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions; and,

• 8.4(c): Engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

Howells’ suspension is effective beginning June 5, 2018. Costs of the proceeding, In the Matter of: Felicia L. Howells, 49S00-16-12-DI-684, are assessed against her.

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