On October 14, 2010, the state's Inspector General filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission, alleging that Respondent had violated conflict of interest rules by participating in IURC decisions involving Duke during the Relevant Period. The Ethics Commission issued its Final Report on May 12, 2011, in which it determined that Respondent had violated Ind. Code § 4-2-6-9, imposed a penalty of $12,120.00 (triple the amount that he obtained in increased salary during his employment at Duke), and banned Respondent from future employment with the State of Indiana. Respondent filed a Verified Petition for Judicial Review in the Marion Superior Court, which affirmed on January 25, 2012.
Why the leniency? As the opinion explains:
The parties cite no facts in aggravation. They cite the following facts in mitigation: (1) Respondent has no prior disciplinary history; (2) Respondent was cooperative with the disciplinary process; (3) Respondent has fully complied with the order issued by the Indiana State Ethics Commission; (4) Respondent could not independently screen off docketed cases; (5) Respondent did not testify about his communications with Duke during the Relevant Period based on statements during that period that Duke did not intend to consider attorneys from the IURC for the position; (6) an internal IURC audit concluded that there was no evidence that Respondent exerted undue influence in his decisions in Duke cases; and (7) Respondent made an effort to comply with the state ethics rules applicable to the IURC. The parties state that Respondent believed that, under the Ethics Commission's Decision No. 10-1-7, it was necessary to screen off cases only after being contacted by a utility in response to the submission of a resume.Meanwhile, fellow attorney and blogger Paul Ogden is facing a suspension of his law license for at least one year with no automatic right of reinstatement for defending his right to criticize in a private e-mail a judge's handling of a probate matter that dragged on for years until the estate had been dwindled to practically nothing before the judge was removed from the case as a result of a lazy judge motion filed by Ogden. If the Supreme Court accepts the hearing officer's recommendation, Ogden's legal career is effectively ended.
The Court also notes that Respondent has already suffered considerable penalties for his misconduct, including a fine of over $12,000 and banishment from any future state employment. Under the American Bar Association's Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions (as amended in 1992), the "imposition of other penalties or sanctions" may be considered a factor in mitigation. See Standard 9.32(k).
Hat tip to Indiana Law Blog.