Attorney suspended 45 days by IN Supreme Court for false provisional license statements, failure to disclose Ohio divorce proceeding

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The Indiana Supreme Court bench in the Indiana Statehouse (IL file photo)

A Speedway attorney is facing a 45-day suspension for knowingly making a false statement of fact to the state’s Board of Law Examiners in connection with a 2018 bar admission application.

The Indiana Supreme Court issued the order Wednesday to suspend John J. Coomes, with the suspension to begin Dec. 12.

Coomes violated Indiana Professional Rules 8.1 (a) and 8.1 (b), which is failing to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension known by the person to have arisen in an admissions matter.

According to the order, Coomes, who is licensed to practice law in Ohio, applied for a provisional license in Indiana in 2018 pursuant to Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 6(1).

In response to a question in the application asking if he had been a named party in any civil actions, Coomes failed to disclose his Ohio marital dissolution case, in which post-dissolution matters were being actively litigated at the time of his application.

At a hearing in the Ohio case, Coomes admitted submitting tax returns with inflated income figures in connection with a mortgage refinance application.

Because of the omission of the marital dissolution case in his provisional license application, this information did not come to light until after he was admitted to practice law in Indiana.

The Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission complaint filed against Coomes stated he had been licensed as a lawyer in Ohio since 2010.

As part of his Indiana provisional license application, Coomes completed a National Conference of Bar Examiners Character and Fitness Questionnaire.

On the questionnaire, under the “Civil Actions” section, Coomes was asked, “Have you ever been named party to any civil action?”

In response to this question, Coomes disclosed a lawsuit he had filed in 2010 against Allstate for breach of contract and a personal injury lawsuit he had filed in 2011.

He did not disclose his divorce case, Coomes v. Jennifer Coomes, 2015 DRB 01089, which was filed in September 2015 in Clermont County, Ohio.

At the time Coomes submitted his Indiana bar application, there was an active post-dissolution proceeding.

In the post-dissolution proceeding, shortly before submitting his provisional license application, on Feb. 23, 2018, Coomes was asked to authenticate a purported 2016 tax return and admit that he submitted the return in support of a mortgage application.

The purported 2016 tax return would ultimately be shown to be fraudulent.

According to the Supreme Court, to be eligible for a provisional license, the applicant must have been “actively engaged in the practice of law” — meaning, “performing legal services for the general public as a lawyer for at least 1,000 hours per year” — for at least five of the seven years preceding the application.

In response to an inquiry from the Board of Law Examiners, Coomes inaccurately stated he had practiced in excess of 1,000 hours annually since his Ohio bar admission in 2010 and had devoted an average of 30 hours per week to the practice of law.

Coomes will be suspended 45 days with automatic reinstatement.

According to the order, Coomes shall not undertake any new legal matters between service of this order and the effective date of the suspension, and he shall fulfill all the duties of a suspended attorney under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(26).

The costs of the proceeding are also assessed against Coomes.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush issued the order, with all justices concurring.

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