IN Supreme Court suspends Portage attorney for failing to withdraw representation, engaging in misconduct

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

The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered a Portage attorney to serve a 45-day suspension after he was found to have committed six violations of the state’s Professional Conduct Rules.

According to court records, Thomas Dogan was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1983 and began working at Dogan & Dogan Attorneys at Law after graduating from Valparaiso University Law School.

Dogan was hired in July 2018 to represent a married couple in a personal injury suit and worker’s compensation claim arising from an accident the husband suffered at work.

Dogan’s contingent fee agreement included provisions that gave him “power of attorney… to settle the matter in attorney’s best discretion,” and required the clients to pay him all expenses and fees due at $425 per hour in the event clients discharged him.

In October 2019, the couple retained successor counsel who filed appearances for them in the case.

The clients and the successor counsel requested Dogan terminate his representation, but he didn’t.

At a telephonic case management conference in November 2019 that Dogan did not attend, the court ordered him to provide the clients’ case file to successor counsel and to withdraw his appearance within 14 days.

In response, Dogan sent a letter to successor counsel accusing them of having obtained an ex parte order during the hearing and asserted the clients owed him $386,743.67 in legal fees.

Dogan also moved to set aside or stay the trial court’s order, filed a retaining lien, and sought to have the lien reduced to a judgment against the clients.

In December 2019, Dogan filed a motion to correct a “scrivener’s error” in a proposed order he had submitted, indicating his request for relief was for a retaining lien and not a personal judgment against the clients.

He did not seek to correct the motion itself.

Later that month, Dogan sent a settlement letter to successor counsel, proposing that if the clients agreed to a judgment against them in the amount of $386,747.67, he would withhold execution of judgment until the personal injury case was resolved.

In early 2020, the clients abandoned their request for Dogan to turn over their case file and the trial court denied his pending motions as moot.

In November 2020, Dogan sent a letter to successor counsel asserting that, with interest, he was now owed $552,850.80.

A month later, Dogan filed a collections lawsuit against the clients and successor counsel that sought an award of the legal fees and interest as well as an award of attorney fees associated with the collections suit.

During this time, the personal injury lawsuit was still pending.

In March 2021, Dogan moved to intervene in the clients’ lawsuit and to have that case consolidated with Dogan’s collections lawsuit.

A month later, Dogan filed a notice of charging lien based on quantum meruit on any recovery the clients might make; he withdrew his motions for intervention and consolidation; and the parties filed a joint motion to dismiss the collections case.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission found Dogan violated six Indiana Professional Conduct Rules.

The commission found Dogan violated rules 1.2(a) and 8.4(a), attempting to not abide by a client’s decision whether to settle a matter; 1.7(a)(2), representing a client when representation may be materially limited by the attorney’s own self-interest; 1.16(a)(3), failing to withdraw from representation after being discharged; and 8.4(d) and 8.4(a), attempting to engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Dogan has received a 45-day suspension with automatic reinstatement. His suspension begins on April 4.

He cannot undertake any new legal matters between the service of the order and the effective date of the suspension.

Dogan is to fulfill all the duties of a suspended attorney under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(26). At the end of his suspension, he will be automatically reinstated.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush issued the order, with all justices concurring, for In the Matter of: Thomas M. Dogan, 22S-DI-384.

According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, this is Dogan’s first disciplinary action.

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