FOR THE RESPONDENT
Joseph C. Lewis, Jr.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPINARY COMMISSION
Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Seth T. Pruden, Staff Attorney
115 West Washington Street, Suite 1165
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 49S00-9711-DI-630
AARON E. HAITH )
February 28, 2001
Lawyer Aaron E. Haith was convicted twice of operating a motor vehicle while
intoxicated and convicted once of operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content
of at least .10 percent. Today we find that, by virtue of the
acts underlying those convictions, he engaged in criminal acts reflecting adversely on his
fitness as a lawyer in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for
Attorneys at Law.
This attorney disciplinary case is now before us for final resolution upon the
duly-appointed hearing officers findings of fact and conclusions of law. The
respondent, pursuant to Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23(15), has petitioned this Court for
review of the hearing officers findings and conclusions. Because of the
respondents petition, our review of this matter is de novo in nature, and
will involve a review of the entire record presented. Matter of
Warrum, 724 N.E.2d 1097 (Ind. 2000).
We now find that on June 25, 1985, the respondent was convicted of
operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) in Marion Municipal Court. The incident
leading to that conviction involved a motor vehicle accident that resulted in personal
injury. On September 17, 1991, the respondent was convicted of operating a
vehicle with .10% or more by weight of alcohol in his blood, a
class C misdemeanor, in Marion Municipal Court. On September 29, 1995, the respondent
was convicted of OWI, a class A misdemeanor, in Marion Municipal Court. Again,
the basis for that conviction was a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal
injury. After each conviction, the respondent successfully completed his sentencing requirements, including
terms of probation, to the extent ordered. The sentence for the 1991
offense included mandatory alcohol counseling. The 1995 sentence included, as terms of
probation, alcohol evaluation and treatment, if necessary. To satisfy those terms,
the respondent obtained short-term private substance abuse counseling. The counselor observed the
respondent on six occasions between January and July 1996, and concluded that the
respondent had an alcohol abuse problem and that he met the diagnostic criteria
for alcohol dependency.
The respondent re-initiated contact with the counselor in January of 1999. The
counselors most recent professional opinion is that the respondent and the community will
be best served by the respondents abstinence from alcohol, continued professional endeavors, and
aggressive outpatient therapy coupled with community-based mutual self-help participation. At hearing,
the Commissions expert witness, a medical doctor specializing in addictions, testified that he
concurred with the assessment that the respondent is alcohol dependent. The hearing
officer found that the respondent is alcohol dependent. The respondent disputes that
The hearing officer concluded that the respondent violated Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(b) by
committing the criminal acts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a
vehicle with .10 percent or more by weight of alcohol in his blood.
According to the hearing officer, these acts reflected adversely on the
respondents fitness as a lawyer. The hearing officer also concluded that
the Commission failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent
violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(d), which provides that it is professional misconduct to engage in
conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
In his petition for review of the hearing officers findings, the respondent argues
that his convictions of driving while intoxicated or with illegal levels of alcohol
in his blood do not reflect adversely on his fitness as a lawyer.
His misconduct, he contends, must be distinguished from this Courts prior decisions
finding Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b) violations for convictions of alcohol-related motor vehicle offenses because the
acts at issue in prior cases included attendant misconduct such as failures to
abide by courts orders of probation, the commission of other acts violative of
the Rules of Professional Conduct, or offenses committed by lawyers responsible for enforcement
of this states laws. To support his argument, the respondent relies on
Matter of Oliver, 493 N.E.2d 1237 (Ind. 1986) (lawyer who was serving as
special prosecutor found to have committed crime involving moral turpitude in violation of
Code of Professional Responsibility for conviction of OWI), Matter of Martenet, 674 N.E.2d
549 (Ind. 1996) (violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b) for three convictions of OWI, the
last occurring while the lawyers license was suspended), Matter of Welling, 715 N.E.2d
377 (Ind. 1999) (two OWI convictions and conviction of intimidation in violation of
Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b)), and Matter of Coleman, 569 N.E.2d 631 (Ind. 1991) (Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b)
violation for three OWI convictions, failure to appear at hearing after release on
bond, use of clients funds without authorization). The respondent contends that
his three convictions, standing alone and without some subsequent violation of terms of
probation, do not reflect adversely on his fitness as a lawyer.
We disagree. Lawyers are professionally bound to comply with and uphold the
law. Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 22. A pattern of repeated offenses,
even ones of minor significance when considered separately, can indicate an indifference to
legal obligation. Comment to Prof.Cond.R. 8.4. A lawyers multiple convictions for
OWI or similar offenses may indicate a willingness to ignore the law and
may damage the publics perception of the legal profession. Welling, 715 N.E.2d
at 378. Such conduct also implicates a lawyers fitness as one who
can be trusted to keep his clients secrets, give effective legal advice, and
fulfill his obligations to the courts. Martenet, 674 N.E.2d at 550.
Thus, a lawyers commission of OWI and similar offenses, even standing alone with
no attendant misconduct, have been found to violate Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b). Matter of
Jones, 727 N.E.2d 711 (Ind. 2000) (three OWI convictions and a fourth conviction
withheld on terms of probation). Further, even considered separately, the respondents
offenses are not minor, given that two of the three involved personal injury.
Accordingly, we find that the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b). We
adopt the hearing officers finding with respect to the Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(d) charge.
Having found misconduct, we now turn to the issue of proper sanction.
Relevant to this determination is the hearing officers identification of several aggravating factors.
Among these are the respondents failure to abstain from the use of
alcohol or to acknowledge his alcohol dependency and his failure voluntarily to seek
long-term treatment. In mitigation, the hearing officer noted that the respondent, prior
to the present action, has practiced law for 20 years with no prior
disciplinary history, that he completed his criminal probation successfully, and that he generally
enjoys a good reputation in the legal community. The hearing officer recommended
that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six (6)
months; that after serving one (1) month of that suspension, the respondent be
conditionally reinstated and placed on probation for two (2) years; and that the
respondent be fully reinstated to the practice of law upon compliance with the
terms and conditions of probation. According to the hearing officer, those terms
and conditions should include abstinence from alcohol use, supervision by a monitor, reporting
requirements, random substance screenings, intensive out-patient treatment, and psychological evaluation and treatment.
In recent cases involving similar misconduct, pursuant to agreed resolutions this Court has
imposed six month suspensions from the practice of law, with some or all
of that period stayed to terms of agreed probation aimed at treating the
respondents alcohol dependencies. See, e.g., Martenet, supra (six month suspension all
stayed to aftercare), Welling, supra (six month suspension with four months conditionally stayed),
Jones, supra (six month suspension conditionally stayed to period of suspension to run
concurently with criminal probation). We conclude that a similar sanction is
appropriate in this case as well; however, we find further that the respondents
failure to abstain from alcohol use and his reluctance to admit his alcohol
dependency warrant in this case a lengthier period of suspension stayed to stringent
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent, Aaron E. Haith, be suspended from
the practice of law in this state for a period of twelve (12)
months, effective immediately. That period of suspension is conditionally stayed to a
two (2) year period of probation. During that period of probation, the
Remain free from alcohol use
Be subject to the supervision of a monitor approved by the Disciplinary
Commission, with periodic meetings with the monitor who will provide regular reports to
the Disciplinary Commission
Participate in an intensive out-patient treatment program approved by the Disciplinary Commission
Participate in psychological evaluation and treatment, as recommended by the out-patient treatment
Participate in Alcoholics Anonymous or similar 12-step program
Agree to be subject to and receive random alcohol and drug screenings
Agree to a waiver of all assertions of confidentiality or privilege associated with
his monitor or treating health care providers
Immediately report any noncompliance with the terms of this probation to the Disciplinary
Pay all costs of compliance associated with the terms of probation.
Should the respondent violate any terms of his probation, he shall be required
to serve the twelve month period of suspension which was originally stayed, at
the conclusion of which he shall be required to petition this Court should
he desire reinstatement. Should he successfully complete the two year period of
probation, at the end of that period he shall be fully reinstated to
the practice of law in this state.
The Clerk of this Court is further directed to provide notice of this
order in accordance with Admis.Disc.R. 23(3)(d) and to provide the clerk of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the clerk of each
of the United States District Courts in this state, and the clerks of
the United States Bankruptcy Courts in this state with the last known address
of respondent as reflected in the records of the Clerk.
Costs of this proceeding are assessed against the respondent.
SULLIVAN, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, J., dissent from the sanction imposed, and would impose
a sanction calling for a period of executed suspension in addition to a
period of suspension stayed to aftercare provisions.
SHEPARD, Chief Justice, dissenting.
Several decades of research about healing chemically impaired people suggests that therapy is
typically unsuccessful when a dependent person believes he is not. Formal analysis
thus coincides with intuition: people who think treatment is unnecessary are unlikely
to work very hard at it.
The present case involves a lawyer who is generally well liked and successful.
But, he has had three criminal convictions for drunk driving in twelve
years. His own therapist, the Commissions medical expert, and our hearing officer
have all concluded that he is alcohol dependent. He insists he is
not. He also maintains that the evidence does not reflect adversely on
his fitness to serve clients.
The Court says it disagrees on both points, but it sends this message
so softly it seems unlikely the respondent will hear it. A short
period of actual suspension seems more likely to lead to a successful result.