Ex-judge accused of trust theft, his lawyer sanctioned for bid to ‘mislead’ court

An ex-Indiana judge whose former law office is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from an estate he established that was meant to go to charity has been sanctioned — as has his defense attorney — after a judge ruled they made false statements and attempted to mislead the court in the charity’s civil lawsuit.

One-time Jasper County Judge Robert Monfort and his attorney, Vincent Antaki of the Reminger law firm, were ordered last week to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees and costs in responding to Monfort’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Jasper Newton Foundation.

Special Judge Mary Harper in Jasper Superior Court found that both Monfort and Antaki asserted repeatedly that no money had been disbursed from the estate of Rose Nagel, who had been a client of Monfort’s when he made her estate plan that included substantial gifts to local Catholic schools through the foundation. The recipients have received no distribution from the estate of Nagel, who died more than three years ago.

“As it turns out, roughly $218,000 had been distributed from the Estate by the time Monfort asserted otherwise,” Harper wrote in a July 13 order. She also found both Monfort and Antaki violated Indiana Trial Rule 11(A), in particular that “(t)he signature of an attorney constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the pleadings; that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief, there is good ground to support it; and that it is not interposed for delay.”

Harper found the opposite was true regarding arguments that no loss had been incurred in the Nagel estate. “Clearly, the No-Loss Assertions were false,” she wrote. “There is no question Monfort violated Ind. Trial Rule 11(A). As for Monfort’s counsel, Vincent P. Antaki, the parties argued over an attorney’s duty to verify the information he receives from his client. … Here, Monfort’s counsel argued the No-Loss Assertions arose form a ‘misunderstanding.’ He did not explain this misunderstanding, nor did he inform this Court of what steps he took, if any, to verify what Monfort told him. Also, he made no attempt to correct the record.

“… This Court finds Monfort and Monfort’s counsel attempted to intentionally mislead this Court with false statements designed to obfuscate issues, delay the proceedings, induce this court to make an obvious legal error, waste judicial resources, and escalate the Plaintiff’s costs,” Harper wrote.

She ordered both Monfort and Antaki to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees related to responding to Monfort’s motion to dismiss, preparing for and attending a hearing on the motion as well as preparing the sanctions motion.

Monfort faced discipline for misconduct related to the Nagel case and another estate his former Monon law firm established. He is accused in separate lawsuits of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars to his law firm, an office employee and a family member after the clients died.

Last month, Monfort resigned from the Indiana bar rather than face an attorney discipline case. In doing so, he was required to acknowledge there was an Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission proceeding alleging misconduct and that he could not successfully defend himself if prosecuted.

Monfort has not been criminally charged.

Harper set a hearing for Sept. 9 on attorney fees and costs as well as on the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery served on co-defendant Teri Hardin. She was Monfort’s former office manager who also had served as personal representative of Nagel’s estate.

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