In the Matter of: Joseph M. Johnson III, Respondent.
Discipline Action Hearing Officer Robert C. Reiling, Jr.
ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT Donald R. Lundberg Indianapolis,
ATTORNEYS FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY
COMMISSION G. Michael Witte, Executive Director Angie Ordway,
Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana.
that Respondent, Joseph M. Johnson III, committed attorney
misconduct in connection with his pattern of harassment of an
ex-girlfriend. For this misconduct, we conclude that
Respondent should be suspended for at least one year without
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
2003 admission to this state's bar subjects him to this
Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See Ind.
Const. art. 7, § 4.
Background and Facts
most relevant times, Respondent was the chief public defender
in Adams County. He also was married. In 2010, Respondent had
an affair with "Jane Doe" ("J.D.") that
ended after several months.
March 2014, Respondent ran into J.D., who was at the
courthouse in connection with her conviction for operating
while intoxicated. A short time later, at Respondent's
behest J.D. met him for dinner at a restaurant, and
Respondent told J.D. that his wife was leaving him.
Thereafter, Respondent began persistently calling J.D. J.D.
told Respondent she did not wish to have a relationship with
him and repeatedly told him to stop contacting her, to no
avail. During one of these calls, Respondent was crying and
J.D. overheard Respondent shoot a gun several times.
continued to call and text J.D. and contact her through
Facebook. Respondent also appeared uninvited at J.D.'s
apartment, stood in the doorway and prevented J.D. from
closing the door, and refused to leave. The police were
summoned and Respondent was issued a No Trespass Order.
persisted in calling and texting J.D., and he additionally
attempted to contact J.D. through her roommate. J.D.
continued to plead with Respondent to stop contacting her,
still to no avail. A police officer told Respondent to cease
contacting J.D. and never to go to her residence again.
Respondent responded to J.D. by threatening to have her
children taken from her and to create trouble for J.D.
through her probation officer.
point, Respondent sent an identical text message to J.D. five
times in a single day, and during the overnight hours of the
following morning Respondent placed a hard copy of the text
outside J.D.'s front door. J.D. immediately reported this
to the police. Later that day, Respondent traveled to
J.D.'s apartment, arriving at the same time J.D.'s
children were dropped off by the school bus. J.D. hurried her
children inside. Respondent entered the building and stood
outside J.D.'s apartment. J.D. was terrified of these
actions. A police officer confronted Respondent later that
evening and demanded he cease all contact with J.D., once
again to no avail.
obtained a protective order against Respondent. When an
officer served Respondent with the order, Respondent
responded by telling the officer that J.D. had violated her
probation. Respondent later made similar reports to
J.D.'s probation officer. Attempting to leverage his role
as public defender, Respondent continued to contact
J.D.'s probation officer to see if a violation would be
filed. J.D. admitted having a glass of wine at dinner with
Respondent, and as a consequence she received a 10-day
sentence, suspended on condition she not violate probation
Indiana State Police ("ISP") became involved, and
Respondent was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor
counts of trespass and one felony count of making a false
statement. In October 2014, Respondent was found guilty of
one count of trespass. He was placed on informal ...