The Indiana Supreme Court has handed down public reprimands against two Indianapolis-area attorneys, including an action against a partner at a major law firm.
The justices on Monday issued the reprimands against Jeffrey D. McClarnon of Greenfield and Dave C. Bromund of Indianapolis.
McClarnon, a solo practitioner, was disciplined for his actions in a guardianship case. In December 2019, he was representing a paternal grandmother seeking guardianship following a father’s death.
McClarnon filed for emergency custody, but the mother’s counsel objected. The trial court denied the petition on Dec. 4.
Meanwhile, McClarnon on Dec. 3 also had filed a petition for emergency ex parte custody in a separate pre-existing paternity case. The petition did not contain a certificate of service or comply with notice requirements, and neither mother nor her counsel appeared at a Dec. 5 hearing.
The paternity court granted the emergency petition on Dec. 6, but mother’s counsel obtained a change of judge and filed a motion to correct error. A successor judge held a hearing in early 2020, when McClarnon’s appearance on the grandmother’s behalf was ordered withdrawn.
McClarnon and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission agreed that he violated three Rules of Professional Conduct:
- Rule 3.5(b), engaging in an improper ex parte communication with a judge.
- Rule 8.4(d), engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
- Rule 8.4(f), assisting a judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law.
McClarnon was assessed $270.85 for the costs of the proceeding — $20.85 payable to the commission and $250 payable to the clerk of the court. Hearing officer expenses will be submitted separately in the case of In the Matter of: Jeffrey D. McClarnon, 20S-DI-698.
Admitted to the Indiana bar in 1992, McClarnon has one prior discipline case, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.
Bromund, a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, was reprimanded in connection with his representation of a doctor and surgery group.
Specifically, Bromund represented “Dr. T,” the leader of a surgical group that in 2007 incorporated an institute to manage a health system’s surgery program. Dr. T was chief medical officer for the institute, making him responsible for matters of compensation.
Also in 2007, the institute, health system and an affiliated medical school executed a collaboration agreement, with each party to the agreement represented by separate counsel. The agreement was subject to the provision of other agreements executed by the parties, including an “MMSA” between the institute and Dr. T. and a “PTSA” between the institute and the surgical group.
After the agreement was executed, Bromund became outside counsel for the institute.
All of the surgeons later became employees of a separate entity known as USI, so the surgical group assigned the PTSA to USI. Then in 2015, Dr. T. announced that he would move his practice out of state and was willing to settle with the institute for $1 million in back pay. Dr. T consulted with Bromund as the institute’s counsel, and Bromund advised that Dr. T. had authority to make the payment and the health system did not have the authority to block the payment.
However, when Dr. T attempted to transfer $1 million from the institute to USI, the health system blocked the transfer. While Bromund could not represent Dr. T individually, he offered to help the institute resolve its dispute with the health system. Dr. T retained separate counsel, but he did not sign a conflict waiver for Bromund.
Bromund then drafted a demand letter for Dr. T to the institute and USI in an attempt to “persuade Health System to bless the $1 million settlement.” Dr. T gave a draft of the letter to his counsel, who finalized and sent it.
“Respondent took no action on behalf of USI after USI received the letter. Dr. T never sought permission from Institute’s Board for Respondent to send the demand letter, and Health System never sought permission from the Board to block payment. After negotiations between Health System and Dr. T were unsuccessful, the dispute was submitted to arbitration. Respondent did not represent Dr. T or Institute in the negotiations or arbitration,” according to the Monday reprimand order.
The parties agreed that Bromund violated two Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.7(a) for representing a client when the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest, and Rule 1.9(a) for representing a client in a matter in which the client’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of a former client without the former client’s informed consent.
The costs of the proceeding were assessed against Bromund, though the order did not specify those costs.
All justices concurred in In the Matter of David C. Bromund, 20S-DI-708, except Justice Geoffrey Slaughter, formerly a Taft partner, who did not participate.
Bromund was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1988 and has no prior discipline.