Disciplinary Actions — 8/22/2018

Indiana Lawyer Disciplinary ActionsThe Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission brings charges against attorneys who have violated the state’s rules for admission to the bar and Rules of Professional Conduct. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brings charges against judges, judicial officers, or judicial candidates for misconduct. Details of attorneys’ and judges’ actions for which they are being disciplined by the Supreme Court will be included unless they are not a matter of public record under the court’s rules.

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REPRIMAND

Knox Superior Judge Ryan D. Johanningsmeier was reprimanded for judicial misconduct for his actions in, and failure to recuse from, a close friend’s traffic infraction case. The Aug. 10 order comes as a result of a conditional agreement between the Commission for Judicial Qualifications and Johanningsmeier. Costs of the proceeding are assessed against Johanningsmeier.

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CONTEMPT/SUSPENSION

St. Joseph County attorney Marcus E. Ellison was found in contempt for practicing law while suspended per an Aug. 8 order. Ellison held himself out as an attorney in at least two cases after his suspension in December 2017 for neglecting an appeal and pervasive dishonesty toward a client, the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. His suspension is extended to a minimum of one year without automatic reinstatement, and Ellison is ordered to pay a fine of $750 within 30 days of the order or serve 15 days in prison. Costs of the proceeding are assessed against Ellison.

Howard County attorney Charles Huston was found in contempt for practicing law while suspended per an Aug. 8 order. Huston held himself out as an attorney and represented clients in at least two cases after he was suspended in December 2017 for noncooperation with a commission investigation. His suspension is extended to a minimum of two years without automatic reinstatement, and Huston is ordered to pay a $750 fine within 30 days of the order or serve 15 days in prison. Costs of the proceeding are assessed against Huston.

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STAYED SUSPENSION

Marion County attorney Hilary Bowe Ricks was suspended for 180 days, with 90 days stayed, subject to at least two years of probation and Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program monitoring, per an Aug. 9 order. Ricks failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness, failed to promptly respond to a client’s request for information and failed to return an unearned fee in her representation of clients seeking post-conviction relief. She also knowingly failed to respond to a lawful demand for information from the commission. Costs of the proceedings are assessed against Ricks.

Marion County attorney Kelly J. Smith was suspended for 90 days, stayed subject to completion of at least one year of probation under a JLAP monitoring agreement. Smith pleaded guilty to a felony count of operating while intoxicated — her second OWI conviction in less than two years — and her discipline was approved per a conditional agreement with the disciplinary commission. Chief Justice Loretta Rush dissents, believing that a period of active suspension and a longer term of probation are warranted given the endangerment involved in both criminal cases. Costs of the proceedings are assessed against Smith.

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