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In re Lehman

Supreme Court of Indiana

February 19, 2014

In the Matter of: Joseph C. LEHMAN, Respondent

Robert D. Rucker, Acting Chief Justice of Indiana. All Justices concur.

OPINION

Robert D. Rucker, Acting Chief Justice of Indiana.

PUBLISHED ORDER FINDING MISCONDUCT AND IMPOSING DISCIPLINE

Upon review of the report of the hearing officer, the Honorable Margot F. Reagan, who was appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's " Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action," the Court finds that Respondent engaged in professional misconduct and imposes discipline on Respondent.

Facts:

The hearing officer filed her report on November 5, 2013. Neither party filed a petition for review of the report. When neither party challenges the findings of the hearing officer, " we accept and adopt those findings but reserve final judgment as to misconduct and sanction." Matter of Levy, 726 N.E.2d 1257, 1258 (Ind. 2000).

Count 1. In 2007, in representing a client in a criminal case, Respondent was found in contempt and fined $500 for failing to appear at necessary, scheduled events for the client. Respondent filed a defective notice of appeal of his contempt sanction, using a caption that made it appear that it was a direct of appeal of the client's criminal case. The Court of Appeals changed the cause number to reflect the nature of the appeal and dismissed the appeal with prejudice.

Count 2. When moving his office location in 2009, Respondent threw several client files containing confidential client information into a trash bin, where they remained for several days. A newspaper reporter found information in the files relating to paternity and divorce cases, as well as Social Security numbers and financial records.

Count 3. A client hired Respondent to pursue bankruptcy relief that would allow him to continue operating his business. Respondent first filed a Chapter 13 on January 6, 2010, which was dismissed for failure to pay the filing fee. He then filed a Chapter 7 for the client, which does not allow a debtor to continue operating his or her business. The first attempt was also dismissed for failure to pay the filing fee, but a second attempt was successful on January 20, 2010.

Respondent failed to list on the client's bankruptcy schedule several pending claims the client or his business had against other entities, which the Chapter 7 trustee later discovered. The Chapter 7 trustee did not discover until the " Section 341" meeting of creditors on February 26, 2010, that the client was still operating his business, at which time she told the client to close down his business immediately. Respondent then moved to convert the case to Chapter 13. The trustee filed an objection on March 1, 2010, and discovered that many of the business's records were missing, having been moved the weekend before. The bankruptcy court denied the motion to convert to Chapter 13, finding that the bankruptcy schedules were not honestly and completely filled out and that a large number of assets were not listed. The bankruptcy court found that Respondent was not doing a good job, and that he and his client were " hiding the ball." The client hired a different attorney to complete the bankruptcy schedules properly.

The trustee testified that Respondent habitually fills out bankruptcy schedules incompletely and fails to submit proper documents to bankruptcy trustees. She

Page 537

testified that there were deficiencies in every case she handled in 2012 in which Respondent was involved. Many of his cases have been dismissed because of his failure to comply with the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code. The trustee and an assistant United States Trustee offered assistance, but Respondent denied that there was any problem.

Count 4. The misconduct in this count, which spanned from 2007 through 2013, includes: (1) failure to appear at numerous hearings in other cases and being held in contempt, and sometimes jailed, for such a failures; (2) failing to include with filings a signature, the correct case numbers, the name of the correct court, certificates of service, and required notices; (3) arguing that a $400 attorney fee assessed against him was actually owed by his client; (4) failing to comply with a subpoena duces tecum; (5) dismissal of an appeal of ...


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