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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court disbars attorney for practicing law while suspended

In In the Matter of: Christopher E. Haigh, an unusually long (15-page), per curiam disciplinary opinion, the Court writes:

We find that Respondent, Christopher E. Haigh, engaged in conduct in contempt of this Court by egregious violations of this Court's order suspending him from the practice of law. For his contempt, we conclude that Respondent should be fined $1,000.00 and disbarred.

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 Petition for Rule to Show Cause," and on the post-hearing briefing by the parties. Respondent's 2000 admission to this state's bar and his unauthorized practice of law in this state while suspended subjects him to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See IND. CONST. art. 7, ยง 4. * * *

Respondent has not been admitted to practice law in any state jurisdiction other than Indiana. Respondent was admitted as an attorney at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the "USPTO") on June 26, 2000, and he was also admitted to practice before several federal courts based on his Indiana admission. See, e.g., N.D. Ill. LR 83.10 (a).

The USPTO filed a Complaint For Reciprocal Discipline against Respondent on November 26, 2008, arising from his Indiana suspension. By order of August 3, 2009, Respondent was suspended as a USPTO practitioner for a period of two years, effective September 3, 2009, over his objections. In addition, Respondent was reciprocally suspended from practice before various federal courts, with his suspensions to run concurrent with his Indiana suspension. * * *

By the time Respondent was suspended, he had moved from Indiana to Chicago, Illinois, and some of his activities during his suspension do not appear to have any obvious connection to Indiana. A threshold question is whether any of Respondent's actions violated his Indiana suspension, subjecting him to this Court's jurisdiction to sanction Respondent for such activities.

The Court concludes that it has such jurisdiction. First, it is clear that Respondent's actions with respect to Margco, described above, violated his Indiana suspension. In addition, this Court's precedent holds that it is a violation of an Indiana suspension order to practice law in federal courts within Indiana. * * *

The Hearing Officer found the following to be factors counseling in favor of a substantial sanction for Respondent's contempt: his offenses were ongoing and continuous; he engaged in a pattern of deception that was ongoing and intentional; his motives were selfish; he was an experienced practitioner; he was obstructive in his dealing with the disciplinary proceedings by intentionally failing to comply with rules and orders of the Commission; he repeatedly asserted claims without factual basis; and he refused until the last day of hearings to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct. * * *

Respondent's violation of the Suspension Order was on-going, pervasive, and deliberate, and it exposed the public to the danger of misconduct by an attorney who has yet to prove his remorse, rehabilitation, and fitness to practice law through the reinstatement process. See Admis. Disc. R. 23(4)(b). Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that a fine of $1,000.00 and disbarment is warranted. The Court cautions that any further contempt by Respondent will likely result in imposition of a period of imprisonment. [ILB emphasis]

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 7, 2014 01:02 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions