In the Matter of: Narles W. Coleman, Respondent.
Discipline Action Hearing Officer Jeryl F. Leach
Respondent Pro Se Narles W. Coleman Chicago, Illinois
Attorneys for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary
Commission G. Michael Witte, Executive Director Seth T.
Pruden, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana
that Respondent, Narles Coleman, engaged in numerous acts of
attorney misconduct in connection with his representation of
a client and subsequent civil suit against that client, and
by committing domestic battery against his wife. For this
misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be suspended
from the practice of law in this state for at least two years
without automatic reinstatement.
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
"Amended Verified Complaint for Disciplinary
Action." Respondent's 2002 admission to this
state's bar subjects him to this Court's disciplinary
jurisdiction. See Ind. Const. art. 7, § 4.
Background and Facts
Commission filed a two-count "Amended Verified Complaint
for Disciplinary Action" against Respondent on July 14,
2014. Following a hearing, the hearing officer filed his
report on September 30, 2016. Respondent belatedly filed a
"response" to the hearing officer's report on
November 7, 2016.
1. In 2006, "Client" was charged with class C
felony child molestation. Shortly thereafter, Client received
a letter from Respondent soliciting employment, stating he
could give the best possible representation for a reasonable
fee. Respondent falsely represented that he was associated
with "The Cochran Firm, " originally founded by
Johnnie Cochran. In fact, Respondent had minimal experience
in criminal law and no experience in child molesting cases.
Client agreed to hire Respondent for a flat fee of $4, 000,
which Client paid in part. Over the next several months,
Client had difficulty communicating with Respondent.
Respondent failed to keep Client informed about events in the
case; made decisions about the case without consulting
Client; failed to appear at a pretrial conference;
misinformed Client that results of a polygraph would not be
shown to the prosecutor; deceived Client into signing a new
fee agreement calling for a fee of $200 per hour; and
negotiated a plea agreement without consulting Client,
despite Client's prior instructions that he did not want
to enter a plea agreement. Client continued to maintain his
innocence and refused to sign the plea agreement.
these events, Client fired Respondent and hired new counsel.
Respondent did not withdraw his representation or forward a
copy of Client's file to new counsel until after a show
cause proceeding was initiated against him. The criminal
charge against Client ultimately was dismissed.
sent Client a bill for over $9, 000 and filed a civil suit to
collect the balance owing, including demands for interest of
close to 25% per annum. The bill was predicated on the new
fee agreement Respondent had induced Client to sign under
false pretenses and included inflated hourly billing for
various events in Client's case for which Respondent
performed minimal or no work and various other activities of
little or no value to Client's case. Respondent also
sought to collect from Client additional sums for time
allegedly spent, and expenses allegedly incurred, in
connection with withdrawing from Client's case and filing
the civil suit against Client. Client filed a counterclaim.
At a deposition of a witness Respondent named, he and the
witness concealed the fact that she was his wife. The trial
court eventually entered judgment in favor of Client for
close to $11, 000. Respondent appealed and filed a motion to
compel the court reporter to complete the transcript, even
though he had not made payment arrangements. His appeal was
dismissed for failure to make payment arrangements.
2. In October 2012, Respondent was charged with felony
and misdemeanor counts of domestic battery stemming from
allegations that Respondent struck his wife in the presence
of four children. Following a jury trial in July 2013,
Respondent was convicted of domestic battery as a class A
hearing officer found the following facts in aggravation: (1)
Respondent's acts of misconduct were numerous,
continuing, and impacted many people; (2) Respondent's
conduct resulted in injuries to Client, the public, the legal
system, and the legal profession; (3) Respondent's
misconduct involved intentional, knowing, and negligent
actions; (4) Respondent's misconduct resulted in both
actual and potential harm; and (5) the facts of this case
reflect a long-term pattern of serious rule violations. The
hearing officer found Respondent's lack of prior
discipline to be a fact in mitigation.