IN THE MATTER OF: STEVEN J. OUELLETTE, Respondent
Attorney Discipline Action. Hearing Officer William C. Fee.
Steven J. Ouellette, Respondent, Pro se, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION: G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary, John P. Higgins, Staff Attorney, Indianapolis, Indiana.
All Justices concur.
We find that Respondent, Steven Ouellette, committed attorney misconduct by converting client funds and failing to cooperate
with the disciplinary process. 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 1981 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 a " Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action" against Respondent on February 27, 2015. Respondent was served and did not timely file an answer. Accordingly, the Commission filed an " Affidavit and Application for Judgment on the Verified 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).
In January 2005, " Clients" retained Respondent to represent them in their Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In December 2010, the bankruptcy trustee issued a refund check for $8,725.35, payable to Clients. For almost two and one-half years, Respondent did not disclose the existence of this check to Clients. Instead, Respondent fraudulently endorsed and deposited the check into an account that was not his attorney trust account, and thereafter used the proceeds for his own personal purposes. When the trustee's final report (issued in June 2013) revealed the issuance of the refund check, Clients confronted Respondent, and Respondent promised to repay the amount to Clients. Respondent later issued a check in the amount of $8,725.35, drawn on an account other than his attorney trust account, but Clients were unable to negotiate the check due to insufficient funds in the account. When Clients later retained successor counsel, Respondent refused to return Clients' file.
Based on the above events, Clients filed a disciplinary grievance against Respondent in October 2013. Respondent refused to cooperate with the Commission's investigation and demands for information. Respondent has been suspended under a separate ...