Saturday, August 17, 2013

IBJ Thinks Disciplinary Commission Needs To Focus More On Rogue Attorneys

The Indianapolis Business Journal has an excellent editorial in the latest edition titled, "Root out rogue attorneys." The editorial picks up on the theme I've noted about the disciplinary commission's aggressive posture towards fellow blogger and attorney Paul Ogden for criticizing a judge in a private e-mail while other high-profile attorneys who have publicly criticized judges or who have pleaded guilty to serious felony charges were permitted to continue practicing law without any formal charges being brought against them.
They’ve been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yet next to the names Paul J. Page and David Wyser in the Indiana Roll of Attorneys appear the words: “Active in good standing.” 
Page, a Marion County criminal defense attorney, in January pleaded guilty to a felony wire fraud charge in connection with an Elkhart real estate deal. Wyser, a former Marion County deputy prosecutor, in May pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge for accepting a campaign donation in return for a reduced sentence for a convicted murderer.

The men face potential prison time for their crimes. But the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has allowed them to continue practicing law in Indiana. Adding insult to injury: The attorneys’ public files with the agency show no active disciplinary cases. 
That’s a problem for an agency charged with protecting the public. The commission has allowed Page, Wyser and other attorneys who have pleaded guilty to felonies to continue practicing law, while aggressively pursuing comparatively minor matters. 
One example is the commission’s case against outspoken attorney and blogger Paul Ogden, who stands accused of criticizing a judge in a private email. Ogden has not been charged with a criminal offense.

Perhaps that mentality stems from the disciplinary commission’s focusing too much on another part of its charge: Protecting lawyers against unwarranted claims of misconduct.

It’s difficult to know if the commission is investigating Page and Wyser. Any records are confidential until a formal disciplinary charge is filed by the commission.

The commission rarely seeks a suspension during an investigation, and in the case of criminal charges, generally awaits sentencing before taking action. Neither Page nor Wyser has been sentenced, as their plea deals call for cooperation with federal authorities on cases involving as-yet-uncharged defendants.

Their testimony is likely to implicate other practicing local attorneys who remain in good standing with the disciplinary commission—as well they should if no criminal charges are forthcoming. But it shouldn’t take federal charges, guilty pleas, or convictions and completed sentencing to prod the commission into rooting out rogue attorneys.

William Conour, the Indianapolis attorney who pleaded guilty to wire fraud this year after stealing from clients, resigned from the bar in June 2012. Until then, the disciplinary commission also listed him as “active in good standing”—despite complaints from a former partner dating back at least four years.

The vast majority of attorneys have clean records, and it isn’t fair for the profession to be spotted with potentially bad apples.

There should be a path in the attorney discipline process for emergency suspensions for those who plead guilty to a criminal offense, much like the state Medical Licensing Board could pursue for a doctor who presents a public danger


Anonymous said...

This is revealing! It seems that a felony conviction should automatically result in removal from the bar...immediately, upon conviction.

Imagine the client seeking representation from a convicted felon? Does anyone think that conviction would be disclosed prior to representation???

Paul K. Ogden said...

It was indeed an excellent editorial. I don't think though the Commission always waits for sentencing to discipline someone after a felony conviction. And, of course, the Commission can and has pursued attorneys who for alleged criminal offenses even when the authorities refuse to file charges.

The editorial just scratched the surface of this unequal treatment. There are many, many more examples out there of attorneys not getting charges filed despite serious ethical and even criminal offenses while the Commission is busy targeting people for minor alleged offenses.

Anonymous said...

If an attorney would make an "intemperate" remark, even outside of Court, that attorney will be vigorously prosecuted by the Disciplinary Commission. Perhaps
you recall the case where the attorney who responded for her spouse to a telephone call from a collection agency asked whether the caller from the collection agency was gay and that drew a suspension for that comment as being offensive and the attorney lacking proper

Be very careful what you say, verbally or in writing, even
out-of-Court, if you are an attorney.

Pete Boggs said...

Doing the right thing requires the unique discipline of courage.

Squirrel said...

Although article in Indiana Business Journal says I. U. "would excise the honorary naming of the William and Jennifer Conour Atrium at the law school" it has not done so. The plaque naming the atrium after him is still in place and an employee told this visitor that the whole big main hall was the Conour atrium. Do lawyers and law schools always have to think like lawyers? Can't they get outside the box and just use plain sense and do what they say they are going to do or do what is right without first getting a court's or someone's prior approval?

Anonymous said...

Re comments re courts: can an Indiana lawyer make a remark about the so-called "secret court" that this practicing lawyer had never heard of and likely would never have heard nor even knew of its existence if it were left up to the US's rulers and the NSA and had not been leaked by HERO not traitor Edward Snowden.

Anonymous said...

‘Illegal alien’ remark leads to attorney’s suspension
Representing a father in a child visitation dispute, a Martinsville lawyer’s letter to opposing counsel alleging the mother was an illegal alien resulted in a 30-day suspension.
The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday posted an order suspending Barker for 30 days. According to the order, Barker sent the attorney and presiding judge in a divorce case a letter in 2009 that read:
“[Father] told me this week that he has only seen his baby … one day all year. Your client doesn't understand what laws and court orders mean I guess. Probably because she's an illegal alien to begin with.