FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
Ronald E. Elberger Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
135 N. Pennsylvania St. Charles M. Kidd, Staff Attorney
Indianapolis, IN 46204 115 West Washington St., Ste. 1060
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) Case No. 49S00-9406-DI-582
WILLIAM LEVY )
April 20, 2000
Attorney William Levy, not wanting his client to discover that he missed a
hearing on the clients behalf, redacted language referring to his absence from the
copy of the courts final order, which he then provided to his client.
For his purposeful concealment of information from his client, we find that
a period of suspension is warranted.
This matter was brought before a hearing officer, appointed pursuant to Ind.Admission and
Discipline Rule 23(17), who found misconduct as charged. Our jurisdiction in this case
arises from the respondents admission to the bar of this state on September
21, 1966. When, as here, neither the Commission nor the respondent
challenge the findings of the hearing officer, we accept and adopt those findings
but reserve final judgment as to misconduct and sanction. Matter of Gallo,
619 N.E.2d 921 (Ind. 1993).
The Commissions charges relate to the respondents representation of a defendant insurance carrier
and an insured in a small claims case. We now find
that after entering an appearance on the defendants behalf in the Vigo County
Court, the respondent filed a motion for continuance, which the court granted on
September 14, 1993. The respondent, failing to mark the new trial date
on his calendar, missed the bench trial held on December 7, 1993.
After conducting a hearing on the damages sought by the plaintiff, the court
entered a default judgment of $953.80 against the respondents clients. The introductory
sentences of the order granting default judgment referred to the respondents failure to
attend the trial. After receiving a copy of the courts order, the
respondent then redacted those introductory sentences from it and forwarded the copy containing
the redactions to the insurer that he represented. That client subsequently discovered
the modification of the order in April 1994, after the plaintiff filed a
case against the insurer with the Indiana Department of Insurance.
The respondents willful concealment of the fact that he missed the bench trial
violates Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(c), which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer
to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Additionally, the
respondents withholding of information from his client violates Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(a), which requires lawyers
to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and
promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
Having found misconduct, we must now determine a proper sanction. In so
doing, we consider the nature of the misconduct and any mitigating or aggravating
factors. We also examine the facts surrounding the misconduct, the respondents state
of mind, duties that were violated, the actual or potential injury to the
client, and the risk to the public.
Matter of Drozda, 653 N.E.2d
991 (Ind. 1995).
In mitigation, the hearing officer found that the respondent has conducted himself in
an exemplary fashion during his thirty-two years of practice, with this complaint being
his first. The hearing officer was also persuaded that the respondents motive
arose from his embarrassment from missing the bench trial and not from an
intent to defraud or deceive his clients on the substantive issues of their
case. Additionally, the hearing officer found that although the respondent failed initially
to inform the insurer of his failure to appear, he did later fully
disclose that fact. Finally, the hearing officer found that the insurer subsequently
engaged the respondent to represent it in other matters and was persuaded that
the clients confidence in the respondent also constituted a mitigating factor.
We have suspended lawyer for similar acts of untruthfulness and concealment. For
example, a lawyer who told his client that his appeal had failed when
in fact the lawyer missed the appellate filing deadline was suspended for thirty
Matter of Cherry, 658 N.E.2d 596 (Ind. 1995). Similarly,
a lawyer who assured his client that a case had been filed when
it in fact had not been filed received a thirty-day suspension. Matter
of Gielow, 601 N.E.2d 640 (Ind. 1992).
Although the respondent in this case may have been motivated to redact the
language by his embarrassment about missing the hearing, his misconduct nonetheless represents an
attempt to willfully conceal from his client an important fact impacting the case.
Adequate communication and integrity when dealing with clients is a vital component
of any attorney-client relationship. Here, the respondent purposefully compromised that foundation in
order to protect himself. Accordingly, this Court finds that a period
of suspension is an appropriate sanction.
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent be suspended for a period of
thirty (30) days, beginning June 2, 2000. At the conclusion
of that period of suspension, he shall be automatically reinstated.
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 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
the respondent as reflected in the records of the Clerk.
Costs of this proceeding are assessed against the respondent.