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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ind. Decisoins - "High court disciplines city lawyer: Suspended 6 months after series of errors, deficiencies"

Rebecca S. Green of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, in a story today, adds background to the 2-page disciplinary order issued by the Supreme Court Dec. 8, 2011 in In re Clifton. From today's story:

FORT WAYNE – The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended Fort Wayne attorney John G. Clifton from the practice of law for 180 days because of his failure to competently represent his clients.

In an order issued this month, the state’s highest court said Clifton also failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a case, failed to explain a matter well enough for a client to make an informed decision, knowingly disobeyed an obligation under the rules of a tribunal and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. * * *

In October 2006, Clifton told the Allen County Public Defender’s Office he was available to handle criminal appeals but was inexperienced in appellate law, according to the Supreme Court’s order.

In seven cases during one year, Clifton committed numerous violations of appellate rules that were “substantial, glaring and flagrant,” according to court documents.

In one case, an appeal of a Class B felony robbery conviction, Clifton’s mistakes were noted in a footnote.

“Although we could dismiss his appeal for a flagrant violation of our appellate rules, we choose to exercise our discretion and address the issues presented,” Court of Appeals Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote.

In an appeal handled by Clifton on behalf of Todd Anderson, convicted of attempted rape and attempted criminal deviate conduct, Friedlander did not bother with the footnote.

In that case, the judge noted his frustration in the body of the opinion. The name of the person bringing the appeal is used when referencing the appeal because it is his case.

“(W)e feel compelled to address at least some of the glaring deficiencies in (Anderson’s) appellate materials,” Friedlander wrote. “In addition to providing no citations to the record, Anderson makes no attempt to provide us with the facts relevant to the three (poorly phrased) issues he presents for review. Rather, he merely offers a recitation of the charges filed against him … Were it not for the state’s thorough brief and our own review of the record, we would not even be able to begin to consider much of Anderson’s appellate arguments.”

Friedlander then noted that parts of the appeal documents were merely cut-and-pasted into the body of the document, and the issues were “difficult to decipher,” according to court documents.

In addition to Allen County, Clifton provides public defense work in surrounding counties.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 22, 2011 09:53 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions