« Law - "Reality's knocking" The recession is forcing law schools to bow to reality" | Main | Ind. Law - "Merger Talks End Between Ice Miller and Greenebaum Doll" »

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ind. Decisions - Disciplinary ruling in Perry case

The ILB has had a number of entries on Teresa Perry, the young Evansville attorney charged with meth-related offenses in 2007.

This one from May 28, 2008 quotes from a story by Kate Braser of the Evansville C&P:

As he pleaded with a judge to spare his client from jail time for her meth convictions, attorney Doug Walton said when he took the LSAT with Teresa Perry years ago, he never imagined he'd one day defend her in court.

"She was bright-eyed and pursuing her goal of becoming a lawyer," Walton said, describing his client as "truly remorseful."

After listening to more than an hour of arguments by attorneys, Vanderburgh Superior Court Judge Wayne Trockman sentenced Perry to a total of six years in the Indiana Department of Correction.

Perry wept throughout the sentencing, as did many of the more than 20 people who crowded into the courtroom to support her.

Her pastor, the Rev. Jeffrey Stratton of American Baptist East Church, has been active in her recovery. During Tuesday's sentencing, he told Trockman he did not believe Perry should serve jail time.

"When my own brother was in the midst of his addiction, I testified in court that he needed prison time," Stratton said. "But I see this case as a success story. A tremendous amount of resources have been brought to bear, and that shouldn't be held against her."

Perry attended an inpatient treatment program and has continued recovery efforts through other local programs since her arrest.

And a story from July 22nd in the Evansville C&P reported:
An Evansville attorney recently convicted and sentenced to jail on methamphetamine charges has been suspended from practice by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The ruling, issued this month by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, suspends Teresa Perry from the practice of law in Indiana “until further order of the Court,” due to Perry being found guilty of a felony.

Today the Supreme Court has posted a further order, filed Sept. 4. It is a 3-2 ruling, with Shepard and Dickson dissenting. The majority opinion reads in part:
Regardless of the date on which Respondent is eligible to seek reinstatement, her petition would be granted only if she met the most stringent requirements of proof that her rehabilitation is complete and she can safely reenter the legal profession. With this in mind, and in light of the Court's desire to foster agreed resolutions of lawyer disciplinary cases, the Court now APPROVES and ORDERS the agreed discipline.

For Respondent's professional misconduct, the Court suspends Respondent from the practice of law in this state for a period of not less than two years or until her criminal sentence has been completely served, whichever is greater, without automatic reinstatement, beginning July 29, 2008 (the effective date of her interim suspension). Respondent shall not undertake any new legal matters between service of this order and the effective date of the suspension, and Respondent shall fulfill all the duties of a suspended attorney under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(26). At the conclusion of that period, Respondent may petition this Court for reinstatement to the practice of law in this state, provided Respondent pays the costs of this proceeding, fulfills the duties of a suspended attorney, and satisfies the requirements for reinstatement of Admission and Discipline Rule 23(4). [emphasis in the original]

The dissent, written by J. Dickson, with C.J. Shepard concurring:
I would reject the Conditional Agreement because it leaves open the possibility that the Respondent may eventually resume the practice of law despite being convicted of multiple felonies involving both dealing in and possession of methamphetamine. Permitting such a convicted felon to practice law is unacceptable, in my opinion, because it places at risk the citizens who may seek future legal representation from the Respondent, and it undermines general public confidence, trust, and respect for the Indiana legal system as consisting of persons morally sound, fit, and suitable to be safely entrusted with the personal interests of others.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 9, 2009 03:58 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions