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In re Hall

Supreme Court of Indiana

October 18, 2018

In the Matter of Edward R. Hall, Respondent.

         Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer Alger Boswell

          RESPONDENT PRO SE Edward R. Hall North Fort Myers, Florida.

          ATTORNEYS FOR INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION G. Michael Witte, Executive Director Seth Pruden, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana.


          PER CURIAM.

         We find that Respondent, Edward R. Hall, committed attorney misconduct by, among other things, disobeying a subpoena and causing another witness to do the same, neglecting clients' cases, and engaging in a pattern of dishonesty. 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 2000 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 three-count "Disciplinary Complaint" against Respondent on March 17, 2017, and we appointed a hearing officer. Following an evidentiary hearing, the hearing officer issued his report on August 7, 2018, finding Respondent committed violations as charged. Neither party has filed a petition for review of those findings or a brief on sanction.

         Count 1. A parcel of improved real estate ("Property"), once owned by Respondent, was transferred to a "Land Trust" in 1995. Laura Hanus, Respondent's girlfriend (and later Respondent's legal secretary after Respondent was admitted to the Indiana bar), became the 100% beneficiary of the Land Trust soon thereafter. In 2012, the Property became subject to a tax sale due to the nonpayment of property taxes for several years. Respondent represented the Land Trust in legal proceedings that followed, and during those proceedings an issue arose regarding whether Respondent still had an ownership interest in the Property. Respondent failed to comply with discovery and soon was facing motions from the Lake County Auditor for sanctions and to disqualify Respondent from representing the Land Trust. The trial court scheduled a hearing on sanctions for September 4, 2014, at 9:00 a.m., and Respondent and Hanus were subpoenaed to appear. Respondent falsely informed Hanus that the hearing would not occur and she need not honor the subpoena. When neither Respondent nor Hanus appeared for the hearing at 9:00 a.m., the presiding magistrate called Respondent's law office, spoke with Hanus, and advised her that she and Respondent needed to appear in court later that morning or be subject to contempt. Respondent and Hanus then complied.

         Count 2. Respondent represented "Client 2," a manufacturer, in an action against a seller and a rival manufacturer. The fee agreement was not reduced to writing. Client 2 offered, and Respondent accepted, a trailer valued at $9, 000 as a retainer. Shortly thereafter Client 2 paid an additional $5, 000 at Respondent's request. Six months after the suit was filed, Respondent sought an additional $5, 000 from Client 2, who indicated an inability to pay. Respondent then stated he would convert the agreement to a contingency agreement. However, that agreement was not reduced to writing and the percentage contemplated for Respondent's fee is not known.

         Meanwhile, Respondent had not forwarded discovery requests to Client 2, and Respondent began avoiding responding to Client 2's inquiries. Respondent's failure to comply with discovery led to sanctions against Client 2 and an order to comply. Respondent did not inform Client 2 of these events until two days after the deadline to comply, when Respondent told Client 2 he had five days to gather telephone and sales records spanning seven years. In February 2015, the court dismissed Client 2's suit and ordered Client 2 to pay attorney fees. Respondent did not inform Client 2 of these events. Months later, the seller sought to place a hold on Client 2's bank account; when Client 2 asked Respondent about this, Respondent told him not to worry.

         While that suit was still pending, in June 2014 Client 2 separately was sued by a supplier for nonpayment, and Respondent agreed to represent Client 2 in that matter as well. Unbeknownst to Client 2, Respondent took no action in that matter, a judgment was entered against Client 2, and the supplier later placed a hold on Client 2's bank account. When Client 2 contacted Respondent about this, Respondent falsely told Client 2 that he had filed the proper papers in that case. Client 2 later settled that matter on his own.

         In February 2016, Client 2 sued Respondent for malpractice. Respondent failed to answer or appear for the default hearing and a $353, 000 judgment was entered against him. As of the final hearing in this matter, Respondent has made no payments to Client 2 toward satisfaction of this judgment.

         Count 3. "Client 3" previously had hired another attorney ("Predecessor Counsel") to bring action against a contractor or others in connection with construction defects in Client 3's home. Predecessor Counsel failed to file suit, resulting in loss of some of Client 3's claims. Client 3 then hired Respondent to represent him in contemplation of a similar construction-defect suit against the general contractor, and also in contemplation of a legal malpractice action against Predecessor Counsel. Predecessor Counsel passed away, and Respondent did not take any further action against Predecessor Counsel or his estate. Client 3 additionally hired ...

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