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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ind. Courts - Interesting disciplinary decision filed Nov. 3rd by the Supreme Court

Although they are public documents and are all available online here at "Orders and Opinions Regarding Final Resolution in Attorney Disciplinary Cases," the ILB doesn't often write about individual rulings unless they are of general interest.

This one, In the Matter of Daniel E. Moore, meets that criterion. For Respondent's professional misconduct, the Supreme Court here agrees to a Public Reprimand proposed by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and Respondent. From the Order:

Stipulated Facts: In May 2004, Respondent was retained by a client ("Client") to represent her in a dissolution of marriage action. Client paid Respondent $15,000 pursuant to an agreement that this would be his total "flat" or "fixed" fee. By letter dated June 16, 2004, Respondent told Client: "My office agrees to accept your case in consideration of the payment of our minimum non-refundable retainer fee in the amount of $15,000 . . . ."

Respondent diligently and competently worked on Client's case. In May 2005, Respondent requested Client pay him an additional $5,000, which Client paid. In April 2006, Respondent requested Client pay him an additional $1,500, which Client paid in two installments. In neither instance did Respondent advise Client to consult with independent counsel before agreeing to amend the fee agreement to his advantage.

Respondent has no prior disciplinary history, he was cooperative with the Commission, he is remorseful, and he has served as a volunteer in various community and legal organizations. The parties agree there are no facts in aggravation.

Violations: The parties agree that Respondent violated these Indiana Professional Conduct Rules prohibiting the following misconduct:

  • 1.5(a) (2004): Charging an unreasonable fee.
  • 1.8(a)(2) (2005): Entering into business transactions with a client (amendments of a fee agreement) unless the client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking, and is given reasonable opportunity to seek, advice from independent counsel.
All the justices concur, except for Justice Dickson:
Dickson, J., dissents and would reject the agreement, believing a period of suspension is in order in the absence of any showing that Respondent refunded the fees received above his initial quote of $15,000 for a "flat" or "fixed" fee.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 5, 2009 07:59 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions