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In re Haigh

Supreme Court of Indiana

May 7, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF: CHRISTOPHER E. HAIGH, Respondent

Page 981

Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer Robert C. Reiling.

ATTORNEY FOR THE RESPONDENT: Ron E. Elberger, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION: G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary, David B. Hughes, Trial Counsel, Allison S. Avery, Staff Attorney, Indianapolis, Indiana.

All Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 982

Per Curiam.

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, § 4.

Procedural Background

The status of Respondent's law privileges.

By order of June 30, 2008 (" Suspension Order" ), this Court suspended Respondent from the practice of law for not less than two years, effective August 15, 2008, for violation of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer) and Rule 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). The violations arose from becoming sexually intimate with two minors on a team he coached, providing alcohol to them, and falsely assuring their parents, their school, and others that he had no inappropriate relationship with them. See Matter of Haigh, 894 N.E.2d 550 (Ind. 2008), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 1154, 129 S.Ct. 1047, 173 L.Ed.2d 470 (2009). Respondent is currently suspended and has not sought reinstatement.

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.

The Commission's contempt action.

On January 6, 2012, the Commission filed a verified petition for rule to show cause against Respondent, alleging that he committed acts in contempt of this Court by, among other things, holding himself out as an attorney or a paralegal and practicing law while suspended. An order to show cause directed at Respondent was entered on January 13, 2012. Respondent filed a lengthy response with voluminous attachments on March 26, 2012. By order dated February 28, 2013, this Court referred the contempt proceeding to Hearing Officer Robert C. Reiling.

The hearing officer filed a 46-page report (" Report" ) on November 14, 2013. In a nutshell, the hearing officer found:

The evidence presented at the final hearing in this matter shows overwhelmingly that, from the time of the Suspension Order through the commencement

Page 983

of the hearing on this contempt matter, Respondent knowingly and willfully engaged in various schemes and stratagems designed by him, with the participation of a few others, to blunt and circumvent the effect of this Court's Suspension Order.

Report at 5. Although Respondent had vigorously contested many of the factual and legal issues during this contempt proceeding, at this point, Respondent does not contest any of the hearing officer's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Rather, the parties dispute only what sanction should be imposed. The Court therefore adopts the hearing officer's findings and conclusions of law, summarizing them below as relevant to the issue of what sanction is appropriate.

Respondent's Actions in Contempt of this Court

Persons and entities with which Respondent was associated.

The following are persons and entities that play a role in Respondent's post-suspension activities:

[#x27a2] " Margco." Margco was an Indiana LLC that Respondent represented and for whom he served as general counsel.
[#x27a2] " Schwindt." Jeffery R. Schwindt of Indianapolis was a client for whom Respondent drafted patent applications while Respondent was employed at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP (" B& T" ). Respondent joined B& T in 2001 and left before his 2008 suspension.
[#x27a2] " AirFX." AirFX was formed on January 29, 2008, by Schwindt, who transferred to AirFX the products he had begun developing through another entity he owned. The hearing officer found Respondent has no ownership interest in AirFX.
[#x27a2] " Opsys." Schwindt formed Opsys in February 2010. It is owned by Schwindt, Respondent, and two others, with Respondent having a one-third ownership interest.
[#x27a2] " TED." Short for " Tissue Extraction Devices," TED is the holding company for intellectual property tied to medical devices, which is apparently owned primarily by Schwindt. Respondent had one-third ownership interest in TED.
[#x27a2] " Lurie." Marc Lurie is a California businessman and non-practicing attorney who owned the internet domain name of < airfx.com> . Respondent, acting on behalf of AirFX, challenged Lurie's use of this domain name.
[#x27a2] " IP Advisors." After leaving B& T and working for two other firms, Respondent formed his own Illinois law firm named IP Advisors in 2006 (before his Indiana suspension).
[#x27a2] " IPXtract." This is a company owned by Respondent that deals with intellectual property, including patents. Its services, including legal services, were marketed to inventors.
[#x27a2] " Oskin." David Oskin became associated with IPXtract as a patent attorney in fall of 2009.
[#x27a2] " Hurley Stanners." This is a Chicago law firm with which Oskin signed an employment agreement in December 2009. Respondent also worked part time for Hurley Stanners as a " paralegal" for about a ...

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