Noblesville lawyer suspended, ordered to JLAP probation

A Noblesville attorney has been suspended from the practice of law with two years of probation monitored by the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program after failing to inform and refund several clients, among other things.

Scott A. Adams was suspended for 180 days effective March 26, with 60 days actively served and the remainder of his suspension stayed subject to the completion of at least two years of probation with JLAP. The high court issued an order Friday accepting the agreed discipline proposed by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Count 1 of the conditional agreement for discipline alleges that Adams was hired by “Client 1” to obtain a guardianship over Client 1’s three grandchildren. Adams prepared petitions for appointment of a guardian but never filed them. He then erroneously told Client 1 that the petitions had been filed. Adams thereafter did not respond to Client 1’s numerous requests for information, but eventually refunded all attorney fees paid by Client 1.

Count 2 alleges that from 2011 until 2019, Adams annually certified his business account as an Interest on Lawyers Trust Account. In February 2019, Adams allegedly certified his IOLTA account with the Clerk and closed the certification for his business account.

In Count 3, Adams was hired by “Client 3” to represent her in a probation violation matter and accepted a $1,000 retainer. He subsequently did no work on the case and did not respond to Client 3’s attempts to reach him, nor refund the $1,000 fee until after Client 3 filed a grievance with the disciplinary commission.

Similarly, “Client 4” hired and paid Adams $3,500 to serve as local counsel in his Marion County post-dissolution matter. Not long after that, Client 4 terminated the services of the Illinois law firm representing him in the matter and informed Adams that his services were no longer needed. Client 4’s Illinois counsel unsuccessfully tried for several months to obtain a refund of the $3,500 for the client, which Adams did not provide until after a grievance had been filed with the commission.

Finally, Adams was hired by “Client 5” to represent him in various expungement matters, paying Adams a $2,000 retainer. The attorney filed expungement petitions in Hamilton and Marion Counties in April 2019, but the Hamilton County prosecutor filed an objection arguing the petition was statutorily noncompliant. The court then scheduled a hearing, which Adams did not advise Client 5 of, and neither appeared at the hearing. Client 5’s expungement petition was denied as a result and he was unable to contact Adams for several months.

Eventually, a successor counsel was hired who amended the Hamilton and Marion County petitions and succeeded in obtaining expungements for Client 5 in those counties. Adams was successful in obtaining an expungement for Client 5 in a third county, and he reimbursed Client 5 for the successor counsel fees in the Hamilton and Marion County cases.

The parties agreed that Adams violated the following Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), 1.4(a)(4), 1.15(g) and 1.16(d).

Adams was also found to have violated Admission and Discipline Rule 2(f) by failing to properly certify his IOLTA account with the clerk.

“The parties cite Respondent’s pattern of misconduct and substantial experience in the practice of law as facts in aggravation. In mitigation the parties cite Respondent’s lack of prior discipline, his cooperation with the disciplinary process, and his engagement with JLAP to address factors contributing to his misconduct,” the order says.

All justices concurred in the Friday order of In the Matter of: Scott A. Adams, 19S-DI-144, signed by Chief Justice Loretta Rush.

This is first disciplinary action against Adams, who was admitted to practice in 2003, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys. The costs of the proceeding are assessed against him.

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