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In re Hilary Ricks

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 17, 2019

In the Matter of Hilary Bowe Ricks, Respondent.

         Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer Jonathan M. Brown

         NO APPEARANCE FOR THE RESPONDENT.

          ATTORNEYS FOR INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION G. Michael Witte, Executive Director Angie L. Ordway, Staff Attorney.

          Chief Justice Rush and Justices Massa and Goff concur. Justices David and Slaughter concur in part and dissent in part.

          OPINION

          Per Curiam.

         We find that Respondent, Hilary Bowe Ricks, committed attorney misconduct by neglecting clients' cases and by failing to cooperate with the disciplinary process. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be suspended for at least two years without automatic reinstatement.

         This matter is now before us on the report of the hearing officer appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's amended disciplinary complaint. Respondent's 1986 admission to this state's bar subjects her 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 November 20, 2018, which it later amended. Respondent was served with the amended complaint but has not appeared, responded, or otherwise participated in these proceedings. Accordingly, the Commission filed a "Motion for Judgment on the Complaint," and the hearing officer took the facts alleged in the amended 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 2013, "Client 1" contacted Respondent regarding his desire to pursue an expungement of various past criminal proceedings. In April 2014, Respondent told Client 1 she would charge $991 for the requisite case filings and $250 to attend any hearing. Respondent required Client 1 to pay $691 of that amount up front in three biweekly installments, which Client 1 did. In the ensuing three-plus years, Respondent never filed an expungement petition on Client 1's behalf and rarely responded to Client 1's inquiries. In mid-2017, Respondent told Client 1 that his expungement petition was "next on my list."

         Client 1 filed a grievance with the Commission in November 2017. Respondent did not timely respond to the Commission's demand for information and a subsequent subpoena duces tecum, prompting the initiation of two separate show cause proceedings. Respondent belatedly complied with the demand and the subpoena. Respondent told the Commission that she did not file Client 1's expungement petition because he had not paid sufficient fees; yet, Client 1 paid the upfront installments Respondent had requested, and Respondent never told Client 1 that she was delaying action because of fees owing.

         Respondent did not refund unearned fees to Client 1 or surrender any completed work to Client 1.

         Count 2. In 2012, "Client 2" hired Respondent to pursue post-conviction relief ("PCR") on his behalf. Respondent charged and collected $8, 500 ($3, 500 to review the case and $5, 000 to file a petition and litigate it until a ruling was reached). For the next three years, Respondent grew increasingly less responsive to inquiries from Client 2 and his wife. Respondent filed an amended ...


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