Fort Wayne lawyer who neglected multiple clients agrees to 180-day suspension

An Allen County lawyer who admitted to bilking multiple clients and neglecting their cases will be suspended from the practice of law for 180 days without automatic reinstatement, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Cody R. Williams of Fort Wayne was immediately suspended under the order, which overlaps an existing order of suspension for his noncooperation in a separate attorney discipline case.

In its Thursday order, the unanimous Indiana Supreme Court approved a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline between Williams and the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. The parties stipulated that Williams had overdrawn and mismanaged his trust account on multiple occasions, failed to maintain financial records and didn’t fully comply with commission subpoenas.

The order further spelled out Williams’ misconduct related to four clients. In one instance, a client paid him $2,000 to represent him in a criminal matter, but Williams didn’t respond to numerous attempts by the prosecutor’s office to schedule witness depositions and failed to appear at two pretrial hearings.

“… (T)he trial court ordered that a bench warrant be issued for Respondent’s arrest and appointed a public defender” to represent the client, the court wrote, prompting Williams to appear, apologize and vow to withdraw from the case and refund the client’s money. “Respondent failed to do these things and was ordered to appear at a show cause hearing. Respondent then filed a motion to withdraw, which was granted; however, he did not refund unearned fees” to the client, Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the court.

Williams also charged an expungement client $1,500 and never filed petitions, though he repeatedly assured the client the cases had been filed. “After Client 4 filed a grievance, Respondent promised to refund unearned fees. However, no refund has been made.”

In another case, a client asked Williams in 2017 to help her file a bankruptcy petition, which she hoped to have done before her wedding in September 2018. But the client was ineligible to file until November 2018 due to a prior bankruptcy. Thought the court says Williams did not do meaningful work on the matter, the client has not been refunded the $600 flat fee she paid.

Williams likewise is accused of failing to visit a client in jail after his family retained him for representation in a criminal matter. Also in this case, the court said, Williams has not refunded unearned fees despite his admission that a refund is owed.

The court found Williams had violated 19 attorney ethics rules under the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct and the Indiana Admission and Discipline Rules.

In addition to the high bar required for reinstatement to the practice of law, the justices required in the order that “Any petition for reinstatement … shall be accompanied by proof that full restitution has been made to the clients aggrieved in this matter and shall be subject to summary dismissal if such proof is lacking. Reinstatement is discretionary and requires clear and convincing evidence of the attorney’s remorse, rehabilitation, and fitness to practice law.”

The case is In the Matter of: Cody R. Williams, 19S-DI-465. In addition to this case, Williams, who was admitted to the practice of law in 2011, has been subject to a dozen disciplinary cases, one of which remains pending, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys. Costs of the proceeding are assessed against Williams.

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