A Martinsville attorney who tried to intervene in a CHINS case and brought a knife and body camera into the courtroom has been cleared of ethical wrongdoing after the Indiana Supreme Court concluded he did not engage in professional misconduct.
Gabriel S. Britton’s troubles began in September 2017, when he was denied a motion to intervene in a closed child in need of services case on behalf of a grandmother, who was determined to have no legal rights to intervene. Meanwhile, Sara Waltz, the wife of Britton’s friend, served as the children’s court appointed special advocate.
Before a review hearing was to take place for the CHINS case, Britton emailed his friend and said he was about to “go crush sarahs (sic) dreams in court.” Britton then proceeded to appear at the review hearing with his client, despite having been denied his motion.
Before entering the courtroom, the complaint alleged Britton spoke with a Department of Child Services attorney who mistakenly believed Britton represented one of the parties and proceeded to give him a confidential case review report.
According to the commission’s complaint, Britton should have known he was not entitled to the report and should have informed the DCS attorney of that fact. When the review hearing began, Britton and his client entered but were ordered to leave, and as he exited Britton flippantly said the judge “could not terminate genetics.”
Outside the courtroom, Britton interjected into a private conversation between the children’s mother and a case manager, telling the mother not to listen to Waltz because she was “stupid and doesn’t know a damn thing.” Further, although Britton was told to return the confidential report, he did not do so.
The complaint also noted an interaction in which Britton dropped off his computer for his friend at Waltz’s home and responded explicitly via text when she asked why he was there. Waltz reported Britton to her supervisor after he left her home in what she considered to be an intimidating manner with “squealing tires or making other noise” with his truck.
The complaint further alleged that on numerous occasions Britton entered the courthouse carrying a small knife, and was informed he had to walk through metal detector after the Morgan County judges issued a special directive to security requiring he do so. Britton responded by referring to the judges as “those faggots” and proceeded to appear at the courthouse wearing a body camera clipped to his clothing, the complaint alleged.
Britton was later reminded by the court that video recording was prohibited in the courtroom. Additionally, the complaint alleged Britton requested a security guard to accompany him in the courtroom because he wanted protection and to “prevent false accusations from being made against him.”
The Board of Judges of Morgan County filed its request for investigation with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, which alleged in its complaint that Britton violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(d) and Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 22 by engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and acts constituting an offensive personality, respectively.
In a Thursday order, the justices noted the hearing officer in Britton’s case concluded the commission failed to meet its burden of proving that Britton had committed any professional misconduct. It also noted the commission did not file a petition for review.
“Accordingly, we adopt and incorporate by reference the hearing officer’s findings of fact, and on those findings we likewise conclude that the Commission has failed to prove either of the two charged rule violations,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the unanimous court.
The high court therefore found the allegations of misconduct against Britton as unproven and entered judgment in his favor in In the Matter of: Gabriel S. Britton, 18S-DI-567.
Britton was admitted to practice in 2010 and has no prior discipline, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.