The attorney disciplinary hearing against prominent employment lawyer Michael Blickman continued Wednesday, with the defense beginning its presentation with testimony from Blickman himself.
Blickman, of Ice Miller, appeared before hearing officer and Elkhart Senior Judge Terry Shewmaker in the disciplinary action alleging he unlawfully possessed and copied child pornography as part of the investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against former Park Tudor boys basketball coach Kyle Cox. Blickman was the school’s attorney during the scandal in late 2015 and early 2016, and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has also alleged that he attempted to interfere with a subsequent police investigation that led to Cox’s federal conviction and 14-year sentence.
But Blickman’s testimony painted a different picture of what happened after Dec. 14, 2015 — the day a Park Tudor father reported his belief that his 15-year-old daughter had been exchanging explicit texts, images and videos with Cox, who also served as a chemistry teacher and assistant athletic director.
Blickman was present during the Dec. 14 meeting with the child’s father, and he said Wednesday that all of his subsequent actions were taken with the belief that he was acting in the best interest of his client and the victim. Notably, he said he believed the Department of Child Services had been made fully aware of the situation, including the explicit images — a belief that would later be proven false.
A major issue in the disciplinary action was Blickman’s decision to make copies of the texts and images exchanged between Cox and the student. The attorney was provided those materials by the student’s father, and the commission has alleged that Blickman’s decision to copy them constituted illegal possession of child pornography.
But according to Blickman, he was acting as a labor lawyer when he asked the Ice Miller help desk to make the copies; that is, he wanted to preserve evidence in case Cox or someone else filed suit against Park Tudor after Cox’s exit from the school. He also said he never thought his actions were criminal, nor did any other parties, including other attorneys, suggest that they were.
Also at issue is a settlement agreement that was presented to the victim’s family. Under the terms of the agreement, the family would be offered financial compensation and would also be subject to a confidentiality clause. Though the family ultimately did not sign the agreement, Blickman testified that it was the family’s attorney who first raised the idea of offering financial incentives as part of the agreement.
Further, Blickman said the confidentiality provision — which was signed by Cox — was a standard provision often used in labor agreements. And pointing to earlier testimony from associate head of school Shants Hart, he said the agreement was also meant to prevent Cox from spreading false information about the situation.
Also at issue in the disciplinary hearing is Blickman’s response to the eventual involvement of law enforcement and the Department of Child Services, specifically his response to search warrants served as part of the criminal investigation. Before the search warrants, Blickman had declined to provide police with any materials from his file about the Cox situation, citing attorney-client privilege.
Blickman’s testimony regarding his response to law enforcement had briefly begun Wednesday before the parties took a lunch break. His testimony resumed Wednesday afternoon, and the hearing must conclude by Thursday. The Indiana Supreme Court will ultimately decide what sanction, if any, to impose against Blickman’s license to practice law.
For more on the case, check back with theindianalawyer.com, or see the Oct. 2 issue of Indiana Lawyer.