FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION
Ronald E. Elberger Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
135 North Pennsylvania Charles M. Kidd, Staff Attorney
Indianapolis, IN 46204 115 West Washington Street, Ste. 1060 Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF ) ) Case No. 29S00-9906-DI-336 VAUGHN ARTHUR WAMSLEY ) _____________________________________________________________________ DISCIPLINARY ACTION ____________________________________________________________________
The Commission has charged that the respondent violated Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 7.1(b).
Professional Conduct Rule 7.1 provides, in relevant part:
(b) A lawyer shall not, on behalf of himself, his partner or associate or any other lawyer affiliated with him or his firm, use, or participate in the use of, any form of public communication containing a false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim.
. . .
(c) Without limitation a false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim includes a statement or claim which:
(1) contains a material misrepresentation of fact;
(2) omits to state any material fact necessary to make the statement, in the light of all circumstances, not misleading;
(3) is intended or is likely to create an unjustified expectation;
(4) states or implies that a lawyer is a certified or recognized specialist other than as permitted by Rule 7.4;
(5) is intended or is likely to convey the impression that the lawyer is in a position to influence improperly any court, tribunal, or other public body or official;
(6) contains a representation or implication that is likely to cause an ordinary prudent person to misunderstand or be deceived or fails to contain reasonable warnings or disclaimers necessary to make a representation of implication not deceptive.
(d) A lawyer shall not, on behalf of himself, his partner or associate,
or any other lawyer affiliated with him or his firm, use or participate
in the use of any form of public communication which:
(1) is intended or is likely to result in a legal action or
a legal position being asserted merely to harass or maliciously injure another;
(2) contains statistical data or other information based on past performance or prediction of future success;
(3) contains a testimonial about or endorsement of a lawyer;
(4) contains a statement or opinion as to the quality of the services or contains a representation or implication regarding the quality of legal services;
(5) appeals primarily to a lay person's fear, greed, desire for revenge, or similar emotion; or
(6) is prohibited by Rule 7.3. See footnote
By claiming that he could obtain the best possible settlement in the least amount of time, the respondent likely created an unjustified expectation of such a result in any case the respondent agreed to handle. See Prof.Cond.R. 7.1(c)(3). As such, the statement is misleading, deceptive, self-laudatory, and unfair and thus violated Prof.Cond.R. 7.1(b). That statement, along with the respondents assertion that his reputation, experience, and integrity result in most cases being settled without the filing of a complaint or a lengthy trial, also constitutes an opinion of and contains implications as to the quality of the respondents legal services and is thus prohibited by Prof.Cond.R. 7.1(d)(4). Finally, by stating that he has helped thousands who have been seriously hurt or who have lost a loved one, the respondent offered statistical data or other information based on past performance and an implicit prediction of future success, statements that when appearing in lawyer advertising are prohibited by Prof.Cond.R. 7.1(d)(2).
The agreement in resolution of this proceeding provides that the respondent should be publicly reprimanded for his actions. We approve of that discipline under the facts of this case. When accomplished within ethical strictures, advertising of legal services facilitates the process of informed selection of lawyers by consumers of legal services. However, advertisements containing misleading or deceptive assertions make truly informed selection impossible. See Matter of Anonymous, 689 N.E.2d 442, 444 (Ind. 1997). The respondents advertisement divested those reading it of the opportunity to make a decision based on facts about the respondent and his qualifications as to whether to hire him. Accordingly, for the protection of the public, we find that the respondents faulty advertisement warrants his public admonishment.
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent is hereby reprimanded and admonished for the misconduct set forth herein.
The Clerk of this Court is 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 Federal District Courts in this state, and the clerk of the United States Bankruptcy Court 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 respondent.