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Lawyer doesn’t help his own cause in federal court discipline matter

December 19, 2018

A Merrillville lawyer who asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to reconsider discipline imposed on him drew a harsh reply from the court, which said his conduct “lends further support to … concerns about his competence as a lawyer.”

John H. Davis was removed from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Roll of Attorneys in May after he appealed a case dismissed in Indiana’s Northern District to the circuit court in Chicago. The appellate court cited Davis’ filings in the case at the district court that included a 574-page complaint that was struck as excessive, followed by a 165-page amended complaint accompanied by more than 400 pages of exhibits after he had been cautioned to avoid the “kitchen sink” approach. The 7th Circuit also cited Davis’ “questionable” representation of his ex-wife and adult son and frivolous arguments on appeal.  

“Our main concern was that the quality of Davis’s work fell far below the standards expected of members of this court’s bar,” The 7th Circuit concluded in May in In re Davis, No. 17-1732. In response to his removal from the 7th Circuit Bar, the Southern District issued reciprocal discipline, removing Davis from the district court bar in July. In the instant case, In the Matter of: John H. Davis, 1:18-mc-33, he moved the Southern District to reconsider.

Davis argued he wasn’t provided due process at the 7th Circuit, an argument Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed, noting a public record that she said showed Davis received due process in every step of the underlying civil case and his disciplinary action. The chief judge then underscored concerns she said were reinforced in his motion to reconsider.

“Indeed, Respondent’s conduct in this Court lends further support to the Seventh Circuit’s concerns about his competence as a lawyer,” Magnus-Stinson wrote. “When responding to this Court’s order to show cause, Respondent manually filed a pleading with no citations and CD-ROMs containing hundreds upon hundreds of pages of additional documents, and he did so despite this Court’s requirement for electronic filing. Now, responding to this Court’s imposition of reciprocal discipline, Respondent has filed an 18-page Motion to Reconsider accompanied by 41 pages of exhibits.”

Among other things, the chief judge wrote, Davis “used the first nine pages of his Motion to describe how his computer problems made it difficult for him to properly respond to the Court’s order to show cause.”

“… The Court finds Respondent’s filings in this case gravely deficient and agrees with the Seventh Circuit’s conclusion that Respondent ‘cannot adequately represent his own interests, let alone those of his clients,’” Magnus-Stinson wrote in denying the motion to reconsider.

The Indiana Supreme Court likewise suspended Davis from the practice of law in Indiana for 30 days on October 25 as reciprocal discipline after being notified of the 7th Circuit’s action.

However, Magnus-Stinson observed in a footnote that “Prior to imposing discipline against Respondent, the Seventh Circuit forwarded a copy of its show cause order to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, which concluded that Davis’s representation of others in the case did not violate the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. The Commission expressed no opinion on Davis’s violation of court rules and instructions.”  

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