Decatur attorney accused of forging judge’s signature suspended

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An attorney in northeastern Indiana has been suspended from the practice of law after she was criminally charged. The lawyer has been accused of signing a judge’s name to a phony order in a divorce case and sending emails to an expungement client’s widow posing as a deputy prosecutor.

Jill N. Holtzclaw of Decatur was suspended for noncooperation with the Indiana Supreme Court disciplinary commission’s investigation of a grievance against her. The July 19 suspension was effective immediately.

Holtzclaw declined to comment when reached Wednesday. She said she is being represented in the criminal matter by attorney Eric D. Orr of Berne, who also said he could not comment. A hearing in Holtzclaw’s criminal case is set for July 11.

Holtzclaw was charged with two counts of Level 6 felony counterfeiting in Adams County in February. Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Gary Burkhart wrote in an affidavit of probable cause the prior November that he had been asked to look into a suspicious divorce decree and final order that appeared to bear the signature of Adams Circuit Judge Chad Kukelhan. The detective wrote that the order contained no cause number.

“In looking into this further it was discovered there is no way this document could have been signed by Judge Kukelhan without the cause number being attached,” Burkhart wrote of the divorce order.

Hotlzclaw represented the wife, who told Burkart that Holtzclaw had provided her the document and told her that her divorce was final. The wife “had some questions regarding her support payments and went to the Adams County Clerk’s office to check on the support issue,” Burkhart wrote. She “was told the courts had no record of her divorce ever being filed in Adams Circuit or Adams Superior Court.”

Burkhart said Kukelhan advised that the signature on the document was neither his nor a stamp he uses. “It was also learned that Judge Kukelhan was not in the office on the day the document was supposedly signed,” the detective wrote.

In a separate investigation in February, Adams County Sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Butler wrote that Holtzclaw sent emails to the widow of a man she had represented in an expungement case, falsely claiming the communications were from Huntington County deputy prosecutor Jennifer Pyclik.

Pyclik said Holtzclaw had emailed her in June 2016 to ask about the man’s case. Pyclik said she told Holtzclaw the office’s records only dated back to 1978, and the man’s conviction had been before that. The prosecutor said she suggested Holtzclaw contact the county clerk for further assistance, and that was the extent of their communication.

But this February, after the man had died, his widow contacted Pyclik asking about getting records that showed her late husband’s felony conviction had been cleared. According to Butler, Pyclik soon learned that Holtzclaw had sent the widow emails that contained replies falsely purporting to be from the deputy prosecutor. One reply read, “I show that both convictions have been cleared. Feel free to stop by the office when I am in and I can show you the cleared CCS.”

“Pyclik stated she did not send those emails,” Butler wrote, nor had the prosecutor ever used the email address associated with the replies Holtzclaw provided to the widow.

The Supreme Court’s suspension order says Holtzclaw failed to respond to the commission’s April 20 letter ordering her to show cause why she should not be suspended for failure to cooperate with its investigation into a grievance against her. The commission on May 14 filed a request for ruling and to tax costs, but Holtzclaw did not respond.

Holtzclaw operated Holtzclaw Legal Services in Decatur and was admitted to practice in 2012. In addition to her suspension, she also is assessed the $513.55 cost of prosecuting the disciplinary proceeding.

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