Indy attorney suspended, ordered to participate in JLAP services

An Indianapolis attorney who was recently diagnosed with a mental health condition has been suspended from the practice of law and must participate in recovery services with the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.

The misconduct at issue in In the Matter of: Hilary Bowe Ricks, 49S00-1612-DI-682, centers on Hilary Bowe Ricks’ representation in two post-conviction relief cases, for which she had accepted client retainers. In the first case, Ricks never completed a review of the record, nor did she request the record from the Indiana Court of Appeals. She also did not respond to messages from the client and the client’s mother seeking information about the case and, later, seeking a refund and return of case materials.

Similarly, a year of inaction passed in the second case before the client and a prison volunteer asked Ricks to forward the client’s funds, which were held in trust, to another legal service provider. Ricks also ignored those requests, and both clients filed grievances with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Ricks then failed to cooperate with the commission’s investigations, prompting two noncooperation proceedings. She eventually complied after the Supreme Court issued show cause orders, but she acknowledged she did not have an excuse for her failure to timely comply.

Then in 2017, Ricks was diagnosed with panic and depressive disorders, according to the Supreme Court’s order handed down Thursday. Her condition was undiagnosed at the time of her ethical violations, the court said, and she has since begun treatment and is involved with JLAP.

After noting that Ricks has faced discipline for similar conduct in the past in Matter of Ricks, 835 N.E.2d 208 (Ind. 2005), the justices determined she had violated four Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct:

• Rule 1.3, failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness;

• Rule 1.4(a)(4), failing to comply promptly with a client’s reasonable request for information;

• Rule 1.16(d), failing to refund an unearned fee and to promptly return client case file materials, and;

• Rule 8.1(b), knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority.

The court imposed a 180-day suspension on Ricks, beginning Sept. 6, with 90 days served and 90 days stayed subject to the completion of probation. Ricks must comply with seven probation conditions, including:

• Entering a long-term JLAP monitoring agreement within 30 days;

• Fulfilling all requirements of the monitoring agreement;

• Reporting of her compliance to the commission by JLAP quarterly;

• Submitting a plan naming another lawyer to review her client files and take immediate protective action, if necessary, within 90 days;

• Committing no new violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct;

• Cooperating with the commission promptly and fully, and;

• Reporting probation and/or monitoring agreement violations to JLAP and the commission immediately.

If Ricks violates any of her probation conditions, the commission can petition to revoke her probation, which, if granted, would require her to actively serve the balance of her suspension. In that situation, she could only be reinstated through the procedures laid out in Admission and Discipline Rule 23(18)(b).

Ricks’ suspension is effective Sept. 6, and she is prohibited from taking on new clients between now and then. Her probation will remain in effect until it is terminated pursuant to a petition filed under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(16).

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

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