In the Matter of: Donald E. James, Respondent.
Appearance for the Respondent
Attorneys for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary
Commission G. Michael Witte, Executive Director David E.
Griffith, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana
Discipline Action Hearing Officer John D. Ulmer
that Respondent, Donald James, committed attorney misconduct
by mismanaging his trust account, converting client funds,
and failing to cooperate with the disciplinary process. For
this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be
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 1985 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 "Verified Complaint for Disciplinary
Action" against Respondent on July 20, 2016. After
service by certified mail at the two Fort Wayne 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) (2016). Respondent has not appeared or
responded in these proceedings. Accordingly, the Commission
filed an "Application for Judgment on the
Complaint," and the hearing officer took the facts
alleged in the verified complaint as true.
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).
2015 Respondent significantly overdrew his attorney trust
account on three occasions, regularly commingled personal
funds with client funds, made unauthorized cash and check
withdrawals from the trust account for his own personal
purposes, and failed to maintain adequate trust account
records. Respondent also invaded client funds, which resulted
in the overdrafts. Respondent largely failed to cooperate
with the Commission's investigation and has failed to
participate in these disciplinary proceedings.
hearing officer cited as aggravating factors Respondent's
dishonest and selfish motive, his pattern of misconduct
comprising multiple offenses, the criminal nature of some of
his misconduct, his deceptive practices during the
Commission's investigation, and his refusal to
acknowledge the wrongfulness of his actions. The hearing
officer recommended that Respondent be disbarred.
concur in the hearing officer's findings of fact and
conclude that Respondent violated these Indiana Professional
Conduct Rules prohibiting the following misconduct:
1.15(a): Failing to create or maintain complete records of
client trust account funds, and commingling client ...