February 13, 2011
Indiana Wants Me
In a case that otherwise would "warrant a sanction in the lowest range," the Indiana Supreme Court imposed a suspension of not less than 180 days without automatic reinstatement.
What upped the ante? In a word...attitude.
The attorney sent a letter to a prospective client in Indiana based on a news article concerning a serious motor accident. The soliciation failed contain the words "Advertising Material" and touted the attorney's prior successes. The letter (and his web page) held out his ability to practice in Indiana although he practices primarily in Michigan.
His Indiana license has been inactive since August 2009, although the letter was sent during a period when he had an active Indiana license.
The court rejected constitutional challenges to the solicitation charges. The court also rejected the contention that it lacked jurisdiction and was required to apply Michigan law. Then , the court quotes the attorney's brief:
My experience with the Indiana attorney discipline system is a hideous aberration of justice: a Disciplinary Commission and staff attorney with a self-image of pompous arrogance; a hearing officer who permits herself to be used as a rubber stamp...
The court continues:
Similar examples [only a portion of which are recounted above] can be found on nearly every page of Respondent's briefs to this Court and to the hearing officer, as well as in his correspondence to counsel for the Commission and in his testimony before the hearing officer. The hearing officer noted Respondent's invectives against the Commission's former executive secretary ("a first-class ass"), the Commission ("soft and lazy"), the disciplinary process ("a modern day version of the Star Chamber, a Salem witch hunt, or a Spanish Inquisition"), and this Court's disciplinary rules ("frivolous and antiquated," "rules of behavior conceived over cigars and brandy...during the late Victorian Era by a group of self-impressed lawyers"), as well as his repeated use of caustic terminology (e.g. "despicable," "deceptive and ridiculous," "naked stupidity," "cutesy and evasive")...[he] is totally non-repentant...near the end of his testimony before the hearing officer, he went into great detail describing how he would essentially do it all over again, at least for a Michigan resident.
The title to the post comes from a 1970 song. (Mike Frisch)
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I am the subject of the article. This article is grossly inaccurate. However, most of the inaccuracies arise from the misinformation included in the Indiana Supreme Court's opinion. I have had an Indiana license since 1972, but have rarely used it because I have been a full time attorney in Michigan since 1976. My Indiana license has been inactive since 1987 with two brief exceptions, in 2005 and more recently being in 2008 when I assisted an attorney in Indiana on an "of counsel" basis who was confronted by an unexpected severe staff shortage and I assisted him for 5 plus months while he reestablished equilibrium in his practice. During that time I sent a person a letter to encourage her to speak to an attorney, and recieve information about her legal rights. It was not a solicitation letter but if it was, the only violation was my failure to deface it by including the notation that it was advertising material, filing a copy with the Disciplinary Commission, and making a $50 contribution to its Christmas party fund. In Michigan, none of that nonsense would be required of me. I did not propose to visit her in the hospital, her home, or any such inappropriate contact. She did not respond and I never heard from her. A person whose relationship, if any, to the addressee filed a simple grievance inquiry asking whether the letter was "legal." It was and is "legal." However, due to his grievance I was accused of misconduct to which I respectfully agreed to accept a private or public admonition or reprimand for my failure to include the advertising material notation, file a copy of the letter, and send a check with it for $50. The Disciplinary Commission took no action for 13 months and then notified me that I was being investigated for further misconduct for a one sentence factually correct statement solely related to my law practice in Michigan (I have not practiced law in any manner in Indiana since June, 2008)on my ten page website. Visit my website and see if you perceive me to be a personal injury lawyer overstepping the rules of professional responsibility who poses a menace to the citizens of Indiana. For what reason was a staff member of the Disciplinary Commission exploring my website, an attorney without an office in Indiana, and whose Indiana license was (and is) inactive? What next? Interview my neighbors? Arrange a private investigator to track my activities and whereabouts? No grievance or complaint was filed by any peson with regards to my website. I was accused of the "unauthorized practice of law" which according to the applicable rule is limited to a person impersonating an attorney, i.e., a person acting as an attorney who has not been admitted to the bar. Since I was admitted in 1972 to the Indiana bar, it seems absurb to allege that I have violated a rule the violation of which requires the perpetrator to be a person who has not been admitted to the bar. A Verified Complaint was filed that included added charges with regards to which no advance notice and opportunity to respond, as required, was given to me. The whole process was a joke, and the Indiana Supreme Court decision, which may have been written by a staff attorney at the Disciplinary Commission according to both its tone and comment, is an exclamantion point on the waywardness of the entire process. Among my peers, and judges who are familiar with me, I am noted for my exemplary sense of courtesy, politeness, integrity and adherence to the highest ethical standards. The Court's opinion paints me as a lunatic. The Disciplinary Commission never interviewed one person who is familiar with me, and grossly deviated from the ABA standards in determining what discipline to impose. There is much more to this story. I am not the one with the attitude problem. The "attitude" is located at the Disciplinary Commission office.
Posted by: Patrick K. Rocchio | Feb 14, 2011 7:40:57 PM