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Justices discipline lawyer for practicing while suspended

June 27, 2018

A Marion County attorney who was accused of representing a client while he was suspended and misleading her regarding his ability to handle her son’s involuntary commitment case has been suspended from the practice of law for at least two years.

The Indiana Supreme Court imposed the sanction Wednesday on Douglas L. Krasnoff, with Justice Steven David dissenting, believing more severe discipline was warranted.

According to the court’s per curiam opinion in In the Matter of Douglas L. Krasnoff, 49S00-1603-DI-148, Kransoff was retained by a mother who was seeking to release her son from an involuntary mental health commitment. At the time he accepted $1,000 from her in legal fees to take the case in January 2015, he was suspended for failing to pay fees from a prior disciplinary matter.

Krasnoff “rendered legal analysis and advice to Mother but took no court action toward securing Son’s release. Mother soon confronted Respondent after discovering he was suspended. Respondent responded by falsely implying that he was able to practice law because his suspension was administrative rather than disciplinary in nature,” the court wrote. Justices in a footnote said this made no difference — suspended attorneys lack any authority to practice law.

By the spring of 2015, Karsnoff solicited another $1,000 from the mother to continue his representation, and she again confronted him after staff at Richmond State Hospital told her that Krasnoff could not review her son’s records due to his suspension. In May of 2015, Krasnoff paid his past fees and was reinstated to practice and filed an appearance on the son’s behalf, but mother soon terminated the representation, demanding a refund.

The court noted Kransoff then emailed her: “I am curious what were my other alternatives? Unfortunately my magic wand is broken. I operate within the system. If you don’t have the patience for it, that is not my fault. I am sure your son will appreciate you giving up.”  

The court found Krasnoff violated these Rules of Professional Conduct:
• 5.5(a): Engaging in the unauthorized practice of law;

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

• 8.4(d): Engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

“Even standing alone, Respondent’s misconduct in this case is extremely troubling,” the court wrote. “Respondent flagrantly defied our order suspending him from practice and engaged in a months-long pattern of deception toward Mother designed to mislead her into believing that Respondent could, and would, provide the contemplated legal services. Respondent extracted $2,000 in legal fees from Mother under these false pretenses despite knowing that his suspension precluded his ability to fulfill the objectives of the representation. Meanwhile, Son remained under involuntary commitment, with his opportunity to be heard in court needlessly delayed for months by Respondent’s misconduct.

“But Respondent’s misconduct in this case does not stand alone. In addition to four prior administrative suspensions and three show cause proceedings initiated as a result of Respondent’s noncooperation with various disciplinary investigations, Respondent also has prior discipline for similar misconduct. Matter of Krasnoff, 78 N.E.3d 657 (Ind. 2017) (imposing a 180-day suspension without automatic reinstatement, effective September 1, 2017),” the court concluded. “That case, which involved among other things Respondent’s unauthorized practice of law with respect to another client while under an earlier administrative suspension, was pending at the time Respondent committed his misconduct in this case. Under these circumstances, Respondent’s prior discipline is a significant aggravating factor.”

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