FOR THE RESPONDENT
Lucille Uttermohlen, pro se.
FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPINARY COMMISSION
Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Charles M. Kidd, Staff Attorney
115 West Washington Street, Suite 1165
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 91S00-0110-DI-444
LUCILLE UTTERMOHLEN )
May 28, 2002
Lucille Uttermohlen mailed a letter directly to an adverse party who she knew
was represented by counsel in the legal matter, stating that opposing counsels request
for a change of venue was wasteful. Today we accept Respondent Uttermohlens
and the Disciplinary Commissions agreed resolution of disciplinary charges based on that contact.
The parties tendered their Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline pursuant
to Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23(11)(c). The respondent was admitted to the
bar of this state in 1982 and practices law in White County, Indiana.
The parties agree that the respondent represented a client in a Chapter 7
bankruptcy, which she filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District
of Indiana. Her client resided in the Southern District of Indiana.
One of the clients creditors was a finance company. The client
owed the finance company $250. The finance companys counsel filed a motion
for change of venue in the Northern District court. The court granted the
motion, transferring the case to the Southern District court. Following the change
of venue, the respondent sent a letter to two executives of the finance
company, in which she asserted that the finance companys counsel was acting in
a wasteful manner by seeking transfer of the case from the Northern District
to the Southern District because such change of venue would not benefit the
finance company. She copied the letter to the finance companys counsel.
In the letter, she also recited certain facts of the case and stated
that both sides would incur extra time and expense to change the venue.
Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 4.2 provides that, while representing a client, a lawyer
shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a party the
lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter absent the
consent of that partys lawyer or unless the lawyer is authorized by law
to do so. The respondent communicated directly with the client, even though
she knew at the time that the client was represented by counsel, as
evidenced by the fact that she copied counsel with the letter. We
assume her motive for the communication was to advise the finance company of
what she perceived as purely dilatory or burdensome action by opposing counsel.
One of the purposes of Prof.Cond.R. 4.2 is to prevent lawyers from taking
advantage of uncounselled laypersons. See, e.g., Matter of Baker, 758 N.E.2d 56, 58
(Ind. 2001) (recognition of the need to prevent lawyers from taking advantage of
laypersons and to preserve the integrity of the lawyer-client relationship); Matter of Syfert,
550 N.E.2d 1306, 1307 (Ind. 1990) (lawyer taking unfair advantage of adverse party).
In the case before us today, the respondent violated the letter of
Prof.Cond.R. 4.2, even though the risk that the communication would unfairly manipulate the
adverse party was not great given that the letter was copied to opposing
counsel and because it merely referred to an event in the case that
had already taken place. It is, however, easy to imagine other contexts
where the need for Prof.Cond.R. 4.2s protections would be crucial; for example, where
a lawyer seeks to undermine an adverse partys confidence in the partys own
lawyer, where a lawyer tries to by-pass opposing counsel and negotiate a settlement
directly with the adverse party, or where a lawyer attempts to persuade the
adverse party to disclose privileged information. But because the respondent apparently was
not trying to gain an unfair advantage when she contacted the finance company
directly or otherwise wrongfully manipulate the finance company to her or her clients
benefit, we conclude that a public admonishment adequately addresses her misconduct.
Accordingly, the respondent, Lucille Uttermohlen, is hereby reprimanded and admonished for the misconduct
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 Jeffrey R. Smith, the hearing
officer in this matter, 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.