February 28, 2008
A Lenient Sanction
I must confess that I was surprised to see such lenient discipline imposed by the Indiana Supreme Court in a decision issued yesterday. The attorney had deposited a settlement check in his trust account. The balance in that account twice dipped below the amount due the client over the next month. When the lawyer provided the client with a trust check, it bounced. The check cleared a week later.
That conduct (it sure looks like misappropriation) is serious enough. The attorney also gave what the hearing officer found to be three conflicting explanations of his conduct that were "knowingly made by the Respondent and each statement was false." The court here concluded that the lawyer had "made knowingly false statements to the Commission."
Sanction: A six-month suspension with all but 30 days stayed, followed by eighteen months of probation (the parameters and requirements of the probation are not set out in the court's decision). There is no information that suggests any particular mitigation, nor evidence of an acknowledgment of the falsehoods. Did the court just have one of those bad days? (Mike Frisch)
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