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Friday, April 11, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues private reprimand in attorney advertising case

In In the Matter of: Anonymous, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, the Court writes:

We find that Respondent engaged in attorney misconduct by making false or misleading communications regarding legal services and by failing to include an office address in a public communication. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should receive a private reprimand.

This matter is before the Court on the report of the hearing officer appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's "Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action," and on the post-hearing briefing by the parties. Respondent's admission to this state's bar subjects him to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See IND. CONST. art. 7, § 4. * * *

[This case concerns respondent's involvement with the American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers, Inc. ("AAMIL") and their website]

The Commission charged Respondent with violating these Professional Conduct Rules1 prohibiting the following conduct:
7.1: Making false or misleading communications regarding services, e.g., statistical data, information based on past performance, testimonials.
7.2(c): Failing to include an office address in a public communication.
7.3(d): Accepting referrals from an unqualified referral service.
7.3(e): Improperly giving something of value for a recommendation.
7.5(a)(4): Use of an improper trade name. * * *

Under the totality of the circumstances of this case, the Court agrees with the hearing officer's conclusions that the average viewer would not differentiate between Respondent and the statements about Law Tigers on the AAMIL website and that Respondent is therefore responsible for objectionable content on the website. The Court concludes that Respondent violated current Rule 7.1 and prior Rule 7.2(d) through his association with the AAMIL website. * * *

Remaining charges. The hearing officer found that the Commission had failed to adequately establish its remaining charges. This Court will defer to the hearing officer's findings on these issues. * * *

The hearing officer recommends that Respondent be given no discipline harsher than a private reprimand. The Commission concedes that a private reprimand would be within the range of appropriate discipline in this case. Accordingly, the Court will impose a private reprimand for Respondent's misconduct.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 11, 2014 03:51 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions