A Greenwood attorney who neglected clients and made false claims of his legal experience and expertise has been suspended from the practice of law for at least 18 months.
The suspension was announced Wednesday in a published Indiana Supreme Court decision, In the Matter of Joseph Patrick Hudspeth, 41S00-1612-DI-659. Hudspeth’s suspension is without automatic reinstatement.
The sources of disciplinary charges against Hudspeth date back many years. Clients 1 hired him in 2009 to pursue disability and/or damages for their daughter, who was injured in a golf cart accident during a high school event. Hudspeth sued a school and a golf club involved in the matter, but the golf club filed for bankruptcy, during which the suit was stayed.
In 2012, the golf club was discharged from bankruptcy, and after Hudspeth failed to respond to the school’s discovery requests and motions to compel and deem admissions made, the school moved to dismiss the case. Hudspeth also failed to appear at a hearing on the motion, which was reset.
“Meanwhile, Clients 1 lost all contact with (Hudspeth) and were unable to reach him, and they were unaware their case was facing dismissal,” the Supreme Court wrote in a per curiam opinion. “(Hudspeth) did not appear at the reset dismissal hearing, and the court granted the School’s motion to dismiss. (Hudspeth) did not notify Clients 1 of the dismissal.
“During these disciplinary proceedings (Hudspeth) produced a letter addressed to Clients 1 and dated one day after the trial court’s dismissal of the case, in which (Hudspeth) deceptively wrote that the case had been dismissed because Clients 1 could not establish 100% liability against School. The hearing officer found that this letter was not sent to Clients 1 but instead was created by (Hudspeth) during the disciplinary process,” the court wrote.
In a separate matter, Hudspeth neglected Client 2’s disability claim in federal court that he filed in 2010. The case was dismissed in 2012, but Hudspeth didn’t inform the client, instead telling her more than a year later the case was still pending and would take months to get a result. Client 2 learned the case had been dismissed by calling the court and asking about it.
Aside from neglecting client cases and making false statements to clients about the status of their cases, the commission also found that on two websites, Hudspeth “falsely claimed that ‘he had 35 years of experience in the [social security] industry,’ falsely used the plural ‘attorneys’ to describe the members of his firm even though (he) was a solo practitioner, and falsely claimed to be a specialist in areas of the law in which he held no certification or specialty (and, in most instances, had little or no experience).” Hudspeth was admitted to practice in 2008 and face five disciplinary cases filed between 2014 and 2016, all of which are now concluded.
The court found Hudspeth violated eight Rules of Professional Conduct and rejected his request that any suspension be issued with automatic reinstatement.
His “pattern of dishonesty, which (he) employed largely to mask his own professional shortcomings, compels us to conclude that a significant period of suspension is warranted and that (Hudspeth) must be required to undergo the reinstatement process before resuming the practice of law,” the court wrote.
Costs of the proceeding are assessed against Hudspeth.