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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ind. Courts - Benton County prosecutor receives reprimand for conflict

From the Lafayette Journal & Courier:

FOWLER -- The Benton County prosecutor has been reprimanded for failing to withdraw from a civil case in which his client was accused of a crime.

In a July 3 order, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a public reprimand against Jud Barce, the part-time elected prosecutor in Benton County.

The action stems from a September 2002 case in which a landlord consulted the chief deputy prosecutor in Benton County about a bounced rent check from a tenant. The prosecutor's office sent a letter to the tenant threatening criminal charges if payment wasn't made on the bad check within 30 days.

Later the same month, the tenant hired Barce to represent her on a counterclaim in a small claims case that the landlord had filed against her.

"Because the tenant used several aliases, (Barce) was not immediately aware that the tenant was the same person whom the prosecutor's office had sent a letter regarding the bad check," according to the Supreme Court's order.

The order states that Barce learned of the conflict in mid-October 2002. But instead of withdrawing from the civil case, he told the landlord he could not pursue the bad check case because of a conflict of interest.

Rules of professional conduct prohibit a part-time prosecutor from representing a private client in any matter in which he has a prosecutorial responsibility.

Barce noted Monday he agreed to represent the tenant in the civil case pro bono, meaning without charging a fee.

"I asked for a special prosecutor on the criminal case, and I withdrew too late in the civil case," Barce said.

The landlord in the civil case was represented by Fowler attorney R. Perry Shipman.

Access the Supreme Court's order here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 12, 2006 08:03 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts