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Friday, May 10, 2013

Ind. Decisions - What not to do if you receive a complaint from the Disciplinary Commission

In In re Jeffery T. Fetters, a 3-page "Published Order Finding Misconduct and Imposing Discipline," filed May 7th, the 5-0 order begins:

The Commission filed its Verified Complaint on May 22, 2012. Under Rule 23(14)(a), Respondent had 30 days from the date of service to file an answer. Respondent filed nothing within this period. On June 19, 2012, he mailed a one sentence Motion for Extension ("June 19 Motion") to the "Indiana Supreme Court" using the address of the Commission. He did not send the June 19 Motion to the Clerk, and thus it was not filed. The Commission filed an Application for Judgment on the Complaint on June 29, 2012. On July 5, 2012, Respondent filed a response to the Commission's application and a Motion for Extension ("July 5 Motion") that was substantially identical to the unfiled June 19 Motion.

Respondent asserts that he mistakenly believed that he was properly submitting the June 19 Motion for filing with the Clerk by mailing it to the Commission's address. The Court concurs with the hearing officer's conclusion that there was no excuse for Respondent's failure to understand and comply with the procedures for filing documents with the Clerk of this Court. See, e.g., Admis. Disc. R. 23(11.2) (distinguishing between filing with the Clerk and service on parties). Moreover, the contents of neither the June 19 Motion nor the July 5 Motion complied with the substantive requirements of Admis. Disc. R. 23(14)(a), which governs motions for extensions of time to file an answer.

In the absence of an answer to the Commission's verified complaint, the hearing officer properly took the facts alleged in the complaint as true. See Admis. Disc. R. 23(14)(c).

More from the order:
In July 2009, a client hired Respondent to represent him a dispute with his landlord. Respondent entered an appearance, and the issue of immediate possession was resolved in the client's favor. After Respondent and the client failed to appear at a hearing regarding unpaid rent and damages, Respondent did not notify the client that the court entered default judgment in the amount of $6,089, and he did not respond to the client's attempts to contact him. After the client discovered that default judgment had been entered against him, Respondent told the client he would "appeal" it within the next 30 days, but he took no action. Respondent then refused to talk to the client when he called Respondent's office.

During the Commission's investigation, Respondent stated that he had withdrawn from the client's case in court before the judge, but the chronological case summary for the case makes no reference to Respondent's withdrawal. * * *

For Respondent's professional misconduct, the Court suspends Respondent from the practice of law in this state for a period of not less than six months, without automatic reinstatement, beginning as of the date of this order.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 10, 2013 02:01 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions