In the Matter of: Terrance L. KINNARD, Respondent
Brent E. Dickson, Chief Justice of Indiana. All Justices concur.
Brent E. Dickson Chief Justice.
PUBLISHED ORDER FINDING MISCONDUCT AND IMPOSING DISCIPLINE
Upon review of the report of the hearing officer, the Honorable J. Jeffrey Edens, who was appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's " Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action," and the briefs of the parties, the Court finds that Respondent engaged in professional misconduct and imposes discipline on Respondent.
In 2006, the Marion County Prosecutor filed a petition to establish paternity and provide support against a child's alleged father (" Father" ), who was represented by Respondent. The prosecutor was acting on behalf of the State of Indiana under what is commonly known as " Title IV-D" of the Social Security Act. The trial court eventually entered a judgment finding Father admitted his paternity of the child; granting custody to the mother (" Mother" ), who lived in Florida; granting visitation " at all times and places the parties may agree" ; ordering the child's surname to be hyphenated, with father's surname first; and ordering Father to pay child support. (The $274 per week award was erroneous and should have been $249.97.)
On April 4, 2007, Respondent filed a motion to correct error and tendered an order granting the motion, but he did not serve either on Mother. The trial court granted the motion on April 9, 2007, without a hearing using the tendered order, reducing Father's support to $250 per week and inverting the order of the child's surname (with Mother's surname misspelled). Only Respondent was on the distribution list of the order he tendered. Mother had no knowledge of the order until several months after it had been entered.
On April 9, 2008, Respondent filed a petition to modify custody and to find Mother in contempt, in which he made the following false statements: (1) Father has been awarded visitation pursuant to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines; (2) Mother had denied him visitation to which he was entitled under the Guidelines; and (3) Mother resided in Indianapolis. On April 10, 2008, Respondent sent the petition to Mother at her Florida address along with a request for production of documents. The request for production identified the petitioner as a person unrelated to the paternity matter. An attorney entered an appearance for Mother, and the parties' disputes were eventually resolved.
Mother filed a grievance against Respondent based on his actions in the paternity
and support case, making true assertions of fact, including: (1) that Respondent did not serve her with the motion to correct error; (2) that the child's name was misspelled in the order supplied by Respondent; and (3) that Respondent made false statements in a later petition to modify custody, including that Mother lived in Indiana, that Father has been awarded visitation pursuant to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, and that Mother had violated the parenting time order.
On June 9, 2008, Respondent filed a complaint against Mother alleging defamation based on statements she made in the grievance, alleging that the statements were false and made with malice intended to cause harm to Respondent. He sought damages of over $100,000 and attorney fees. Respondent's complaint was unfounded in both fact and law . The Commission urged Respondent to dismiss the complaint. On August 15, 2008, Respondent and Mother filed a joint motion to dismiss.
Aggravating and mitigating facts. We find the following facts in mitigation: (1) Respondent is remorseful about his actions in filing the defamation suit; (2) Respondent admitted the violations charged prior to the hearing; (3) Respondent is known within the community to be a person of good character; (4) After the verified complaint was filed, Respondent sought the assistance of Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (" JLAP" ) and a mentor; (5) Respondent mistakenly believed that the prosecutor represented Mother in the Title IV-D ...