IN THE MATTER OF: BRADLEY D. HAMILTON, Respondent
Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer Lloyd H. Milliken, Jr.
NO APPEARANCE FOR THE RESPONDENT.
ATTORNEYS FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION: G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary, Fredrick L. Rice, Staff Attorney, Indianapolis, Indiana.
All Justices concur.
We find that Respondent, Bradley D. Hamilton, committed attorney misconduct by abandoning his law practice and clients, stealing their money, and fleeing to Australia. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be 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 Complaint for Disciplinary Action." Respondent's 1984 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 an eleven-count " Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action" against Respondent on December 22, 2014. After service by certified mail at the two Kokomo addresses listed for Respondent on the Roll of Attorneys was unsuccessful, constructive service was made upon the Clerk as Respondent's agent pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 23(12)(h). Respondent has not appeared or responded in these proceedings. Accordingly, the Commission filed a " Verified Application for Judgment on the Complaint," and the hearing officer took the facts alleged in the verified complaint as true.
No petition for review of the hearing officer's report has been filed. 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).
The eleven counts of misconduct in this case arise from Respondent's abrupt abandonment of his Kokomo law practice and move to Australia in September 2013, two days after enlisting Brent Dechert as his attorney surrogate. See Admis. Disc. R. 23(27). Counts 1 through 7 each involve particular clients who retained Respondent to file bankruptcy petitions. In each case, Respondent was paid a retainer fee up front, did little or no work on the case thereafter, and eventually absconded to Australia without refunding or making arrangements to refund unearned legal fees. In most of the cases, Respondent was largely unresponsive to client inquiries regarding case progress, and in two of the cases Respondent knowingly misrepresented to the client that a bankruptcy petition had been filed when in fact no petition had been filed. Counts 8 through 10 are similar in nature and involve particular clients who retained Respondent in various non-bankruptcy matters. Finally, Count 11 charts twenty-two additional clients of Respondent identified by Dechert as having been abandoned by Respondent with legal matters still pending, and to whom unearned fees are still owed.
In sum, Respondent was paid a total of $58,366 by the clients identified in these eleven counts. None of these clients' legal matters were completed by Respondent. The balance in Respondent's attorney trust account at the time it was turned over to Dechert was $2,060, with ...