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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, a disbarment

In In the Matter of: Joseph Stork Smith, a 7-page, 5-0 per curiam opinion, the Court writes:

We find that Respondent, Joseph Stork Smith, engaged in attorney misconduct by, among other things, revealing confidential information relating to his representation of a former client by publishing the information in a book for personal gain. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be disbarred. * * *

In 2010, Respondent authored a book purporting to be a true autobiographical account of Respondent's relationship from roughly 1990 through 2010 with a former client ("FC"), who was active in politics and at one point held a high-level job in the federal government. A sexual relationship between FC and Respondent began around 1990 and continued until about 2001. After their sexual relationship began, Respondent represented FC on various legal matters during these years. They maintained a personal relationship for a time thereafter. Respondent's professed motivation for writing the book was at least in part to recoup legal fees FC owed him and money FC had obtained from him over the years. * * *

In the book, Respondent revealed personal and sensitive information about FC that was obtained in confidence as her attorney, and its revelation had the potential of causing her public embarrassment and other injury, such as impairment of her employment opportunities. Respondent's selfish motivation in deliberately attempting to reveal this confidential information to a wide audience for monetary gain, his false statements in the book and in this disciplinary matter, and his lack of any remorse lead us to conclude that that disbarment is appropriate for Respondent's misconduct.

The Court concludes that Respondent violated the Indiana Professional Conduct Rules by, among other things, revealing confidential, sensitive information relating to his representation of a former client by publishing it in a book for personal gain and by engaging in conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation.

For Respondent's professional misconduct, the Court disbars Respondent from the practice of law in this state effective August 28, 2013.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 17, 2013 01:27 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions