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Suspended attorney faces contempt, fine, possible prison

August 8, 2018

The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered a South Bend attorney to pay a fine or face a 15-day prison sentence after he was found in contempt for practicing law while suspended.

Marcus Ellison of Ellison Law Firm was initially suspended in December for misconduct involving neglect of an appeal and pervasive dishonesty toward his client, the Indiana Court of Appeals, and the Disciplinary Commission. That suspension began in January and remains in effect.

On April 16, the commission filed a show cause petition alleging Ellison had continued to practice law and had held himself out as an attorney despite his suspension. The commission pointed to separate incidents in February, when Ellison attempted to engage in settlement discussions with opposing counsel for one client and later identified himself as counsel for a second client, seeking electronic copies of discovery from opposing counsel in that case.

The commission further asserted that Ellison failed to provide notice of his suspension in every pending matter in which he had filed an appearance and had failed to withdraw as counsel in those pending matters. His failure to withdraw from clients’ cases and make appropriate arrangements to transition those cases actively harmed the interests of a third client, against whom summary judgment and final judgment were sought and awarded while Ellison was suspended and unable to file anything on that client’s behalf.

In response to the show cause order, Ellison did not deny any of the allegations made against him in regard to the three clients.

The justices found in a Wednesday per curiam opinion that Ellison engaged in contempt by practicing law while suspended. Thus, the justices extended his suspension to at least one year without automatic reinstatement.

The court also ordered Ellison to pay a $750 fine within 30 days of the Wednesday opinion in In the Matter of Marcus E. Ellison,71S00-1704-DI-187. If he does not pay the full amount within that time, the court will order him to serve a 15-day prison sentence, without the benefit of good time.

The costs of the proceeding are also assessed against him. All justices concurred.

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