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In re Pierce

Supreme Court of Indiana

August 31, 2017

In the Matter of: John Downey Pierce, Respondent.

         Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer John A. Rader

          Attorneys for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission G. Michael Witte, Executive Director Rachel B. Gallagher, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana

          PER CURIAM

         We find that Respondent, John Downey Pierce, committed attorney misconduct by, among other things, mismanaging his trust account, converting client funds, disobeying a court order, 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 "Disciplinary Complaint." Respondent's 1999 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 "Disciplinary Complaint" against Respondent on March 17, 2017. Respondent was served with the complaint but has not appeared, responded, or otherwise participated in these proceedings. Accordingly, the Commission filed a "Motion for Judgment on the Disciplinary Complaint, " and the hearing officer took the facts alleged in the disciplinary 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).

         Count 1. In September 2015, Respondent commingled personal and client funds in his trust account and wrote three checks from his trust account for personal expenses, which resulted in an overdraft. The Commission began investigating and requested client ledgers. Respondent kept insufficient client ledgers, and the documents he eventually produced for the Commission were false and failed to reflect the source of all funds deposited into the account or sequences of transactions affecting the respective clients.

         Count 2. On April 5, 2016, Respondent failed to appear in court for his clients' uncontested adoption hearing. The judge admonished Respondent and ordered him to complete the required paperwork for his clients, which Respondent assured the judge he would do. When Respondent failed to complete the paperwork, the judge scheduled a show cause hearing for May 5. Respondent appeared at that hearing, which then was continued to May 18 to give Respondent time to comply with the court's orders. Respondent did not appear at the May 18 hearing, but filed a motion to continue that morning, which was denied. The judge filed a grievance with the Commission, and in his response to the grievance Respondent admitted the judge's assertions were accurate.

         Count 3. In July 2016, the Commission demanded a response from Respondent with respect to another grievance. Respondent failed to respond, leading to the initiation of show cause proceedings.[1]

         The hearing officer cited as aggravating factors Respondent's disciplinary history, his 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, his substantial experience in the practice of law, and his failure to acknowledge the wrongfulness of his actions.

         Discussion

         We concur in the hearing officer's findings of fact and conclude that Respondent violated these Indiana Professional ...


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