IN THE MATTER OF: PATRICK H. STERN, Respondent
Attorney Discipline Action. Hearing Officer Gary L. Miller.
Patrick H. Stern, RESPONDENT, Pro se, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION: G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary, John P. Higgins, Staff Attorney, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Dickson, C.J., and Rucker, Massa, and Rush JJ., concur. David, J., concurs in part but dissents regarding the discipline imposed, believing it to be insufficient.
We find that Respondent, Patrick H. Stern, engaged in attorney misconduct by failing to provide competent representation, representing clients with conflicting interests, asserting frivolous legal positions, and engaging in deceptive practices with a court and the Commission. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be suspended from the practice of law in this state for at least 18 months without automatic reinstatement.
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 1987 admission to this state's bar subjects him to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See Ind. Const. art. 7, § 4.
Procedural Background and Facts
The Commission filed its verified complaint against Respondent on May 9, 2012, which was amended on April 29, 2013. After an evidentiary hearing, the hearing officer filed his Report on February 5, 2014, which we now adopt and summarize.
Persons involved in the events alleged by the Commission. The Commission's allegations of misconduct center primarily on Respondent's actions in several cases involving the condemnation and demolition of a building. The three people primarily involved in these allegations, in addition to Respondent, are the following.
· DR, an elderly woman, was the owner of a commercial building in Indianapolis in poor condition (" the Building" ). DR's greatest fear was that the City of Indianapolis was going to impose financial liability on her because of the Building.
· JS, alleged to be DR's common law husband, had no ownership interest in the Building.
· JH, a convicted murderer, began working in Respondent's law office after his release from prison as a " contract paralegal," not an employee. Respondent compensated JH with cash and in--kind compensation, e.g., free representation in two criminal cases and a divorce, free lodging, and free use of Respondent's office equipment.
The First Lawsuit. Before DR retained Respondent, the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development (the " DMD" ) obtained an order to demolish the Building as an unsafe structure. DR then retained Respondent for $300 to represent her in the matter. In addition, Respondent would retain 50% of any ...