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Goodwin v. DeBoer

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 25, 2018

Michael D. Goodwin, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
David L. DeBoer, Appellee-Defendant.

          Appeal from the Lake Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 45D02-1709-CT-88 The Honorable Calvin D. Hawkins, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Carrie Castro Law Office of Carrie Castro Merrillville, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee David C. Jensen Robert J. Feldt Eichhorn & Eichhorn, LLP Hammond, Indiana

          Najam, Judge

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Michael D. Goodwin sued his former attorney David L. DeBoer for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraudulent concealment after Goodwin pleaded guilty in a federal criminal cause of action in which DeBoer, along with two other attorneys, had represented Goodwin. The essence of Goodwin's civil claims against DeBoer are that, had DeBoer rendered competent representation to Goodwin in the federal action, Goodwin would not have pleaded guilty. But, after an evidentiary hearing before the federal district court in a post-conviction proceeding, the court rejected the factual and legal issues that Goodwin now relies on to support his theory that he would not have pleaded guilty had DeBoer acted differently. Accordingly, as a matter of law Goodwin is precluded from now arguing that DeBoer's alleged malpractice proximately caused Goodwin to plead guilty. As such, we affirm the trial court's entry of summary judgment for DeBoer.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In 2011, Goodwin hired Indiana attorneys Clark W. Holesinger and DeBoer and Texas attorney William E. Kelly III to represent him in a federal criminal action for alleged Medicaid fraud in Texas. In May of 2012, Holesinger and DeBoer retained a Medicaid expert, Christine Miller, who authored a draft report on Goodwin's alleged fraud.

         [¶3] In December, Goodwin entered into a written plea agreement with the United States. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Goodwin agreed to plead guilty to one count of health care fraud, and, in exchange, the United States dismissed eleven other counts. At a hearing on Goodwin's guilty plea, Goodwin acknowledged as true a "factual resume" that established a factual basis for the offense. Appellant's App. Vol. 3 at 126-31, 177. On several occasions, the court asked Goodwin if he had reviewed his plea agreement and decision to plead guilty with his attorneys. Goodwin repeatedly affirmed that he had done so. With respect to the factual resume in particular, Goodwin stated that he had "gone over it completely" with his attorneys "[m]any times." Id. at 177-78. The court entered its judgment of conviction against Goodwin and sentenced him to fifty months with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

         [¶4] Thereafter, in April of 2014 the Porter County Prosecutor alleged that Holesinger "stole approximately $380, 000.00 from Dr. Michael Goodwin and his wife . . . during the time he represented Dr. Goodwin for Medicaid fraud." Appellant's App. Vol. 12 at 76. Holesinger surrendered his Indiana law license and pleaded guilty to several federal and state crimes. However, despite the Porter County Prosecutor's allegation, none of Holesinger's convictions directly related to funds allegedly stolen from Goodwin.

         [¶5] Shortly after learning of Holesinger's conduct, Goodwin moved to have the district court set aside his guilty plea on the basis that Holesinger had rendered ineffective assistance, which motion Goodwin later amended. In relevant part, Goodwin's amended motion argued that Holesinger had advised him to plead guilty, and Goodwin had acted on that advice, while Holesinger "was burdened by an actual conflict of interest . . . due to his theft of approximately [$380, 000] from Goodwin during his representation . . . ." Appellant's App. Vol. 11 at 135. Goodwin further alleged that Holesinger's advice was ineffective because Holesinger had "concealed the Miller Report" from Goodwin, which Goodwin argued was "favorable and necessary for Goodwin's defense." Id. at 142-43. In other words, Goodwin argued that, had he known of Holesinger's conduct and/or the Miller report, he would not have pleaded guilty. See Appellant's App. Vol. 12 at 122.

         [¶6] The district court set a hearing date on Goodwin's amended motion. Ten days before that hearing, in June of 2016, DeBoer sent to Goodwin's wife a draft statement for the court on Goodwin's behalf, which statement Goodwin's wife "immediately" surrendered to Goodwin's acting counsel. Id. at 96-97. In that statement, DeBoer said:

It seems almost [a] foregone conclusion to me that if Clark Holesinger was stealing from Michael Goodwin while representing him in the Medicaid case, Goodwin did not have the benefit of appropriate[, ] competent representation.
Did Holesinger steal from Goodwin? In my opinion, it is far more probable than not that he did.
I come to that conclusion by recalling my observations of Holesinger during the months I helped him with the Goodwin case. The nature of the federal Medicaid fraud case meant not only did [Goodwin] face criminal penalties for [the] alleged violations, he also was at risk to lose all or a large part of his substantial net worth. Bank accounts were frozen, real estate was attached. During visits to his office, I overheard Holesinger's portion of phone conversations cutting deals with bankers in charge of Goodwin's holdings. There was also a stylish RV that was pursued by the government. I believe Holesinger sold this for cash . . . before it was seized.
[Holesinger] appeared more motivated and energized to work on the civil/financial aspects of the government's case than ...

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