An Indianapolis attorney found guilty of converting client funds, falsifying attorney registration and lying to a court can no longer practice law in Indiana after the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously voted to disbar her.
Kirmille D. Lewis, who was placed under an emergency suspension in March, was disbarred Friday via a per curiam disciplinary opinion. According to the six-page order in In the Matter of Kirmille D. Lewis, 18S-DI-102, Lewis was the subject of a six-count disciplinary action filed by the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission June 12.
The commission was unable to serve Lewis with the complaint by certified mail at any of the three addresses associated with her, so constructive service was made upon the clerk as Lewis’ agent. Lewis has never appeared or responded to the disciplinary proceedings.
The first disciplinary count alleges that while Lewis was representing “Client 1” in a bankruptcy action, the attorney withdrew necessary funds from the client’s account, but used the funds for her benefit or the benefit of other clients. Client 1’s case was eventually dismissed for failure to make plan payments, and Lewis failed to provide a court-ordered accounting. Additionally, Lewis issued a personal check to cover the funds she had converted from Client 1, but the check bounced and Lewis provided conflicting and false information about the whereabouts of Client 1’s money.
Similarly, Count 2 alleges that while representing “Client 2” in another bankruptcy action, Lewis provided the client with inaccurate information that immediately placed the client’s plan payments in default. Lewis then failed to appear at a subsequent hearing and the case was dismissed, but the attorney withheld that information and demanded an additional fee. The client eventually lost her house because of Lewis’ actions.
Count 3 involves a third bankruptcy client, “Client 3,” who paid Lewis $3,000 up front. Lewis, however, took no action in the case, did not respond to requests for information from Client 3 and failed to return the fees the client paid. Client 3 currently has a small claims action pending against Lewis that seeks to recover the unearned fees.
In Count 4, the commission alleged Lewis’ October 2017 attorney registration falsely certified that she maintained an IOLTA account and instead listed a fictitious account. The following month Lewis falsely informed a bankruptcy court that she had an IOLTA account where she deposited client funds.
Finally, the sixth count against Lewis alleged that another bankruptcy client, “Client 6,” paid Lewis at least $325, but struggled to maintain contact with the attorney. Lewis failed to appear at scheduled appointments, then falsely sent Client 6 a text saying a bankruptcy action had been filed. Lewis later presented Client 6 with a petition that misspelled his name and included inaccurate information, and the client was unable to contact Lewis when he wanted to fire her.
Another count, listed as Count 5, alleged that Lewis failed to respond to the Disciplinary Commission’s requests for information during its investigation of grievances filed against her. However, in a footnote, the court wrote that “Count 5 did not include citation to any rule allegedly violated by the charged conduct, and the hearing officer’s entry of judgment on the complaint likewise does not include any finding of a rule violation in connection with Count 5.” Thus, the court did not find a rule violation with respect to Count 5 because no violation was charged.
But with respect to the five remaining counts, the court determined the bankruptcy attorney had violated 11 Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, including:
- Rule 1.1
- Rule 1.3
- Rules 1.4(a)(3) and (4)
- Rule 1.5(a)
- Rule 1.16(d)
- Rule 3.3(a)(1)
- Rule 3.4(c)
- Rules 8.4 (b), (c) and (d)
Lewis was also found to have violated Admission and Discipline Rule 2. In light of those violations, and Lewis’ emergency suspension and two other unrelated suspensions, the court determined disbarment was the appropriate sanction.
“Respondent stole clients’ funds, neglected clients’ cases, and disregarded court orders, all serious transgressions,” the justices said in the per curiam opinion. “…Respondent’s misconduct also involved pervasive dishonesty toward clients and the bankruptcy court, and Respondent falsified her attorney registration with the Clerk of this Court.
“Further, Respondent has evaded numerous attempts by clients to contact her, and she has failed to accept service or participate in these disciplinary proceedings,” the court continued. “The seriousness and scope of Respondent’s misconduct, and her failure to participate in these proceedings, persuade us that Respondent should be disbarred.”
Lewis’ discipline is effective immediately, and the costs of the proceeding are assessed against her.