FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
No appearance. Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary Charles M. Kidd, Staff Attorney 115 West Washington Street, Ste. 1060 Indianapolis, IN 46204 ____________________________________________________________________________
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) Case No. 49S00-9205-DI-349
STEVEN J. RADFORD )
We conclude today that by inducing clients to enter into business transactions as a
means to steal their money, by neglecting client matters, and by mismanaging client funds
held in trust, the respondent, Steven J. Radford, committed acts of professional misconduct
that warrant his disbarment. The opinion that follows sets forth the details of the
respondent's misconduct and our reasoning underlying the sanction imposed for it.
The Disciplinary Commission filed a Third Amended Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action on June 28, 1996, upon which was conducted an evidentiary hearing before a hearing officer appointed by this Court. Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23,
Section 11(b). His report is now before us for final resolution of this case. This Court is
the final arbiter of attorney misconduct and sanction. Matter of Gallo, 619 N.E.2d 921 (Ind.
1993). Since neither the Commission nor the respondent has petitioned this Court for review
of the hearing officer's report, we accept and adopt the findings contained therein. As a
preliminary matter, we note that the respondent's admission to this state's bar in 1974
confers with us disciplinary jurisdiction. Since June 1997, the respondent has been
suspended from the practice of law for failing to comply with continuing legal education
requirements and failing to pay his annual attorney registration fee.
Pursuant to Count I, we now find that on July 26, 1990, the respondent borrowed $4,000 from a client and agreed by promissory note to pay back to the client a total of $5,000 on or before August 14, 1990. That date passed without repayment. The client died in February 1992; the respondent never paid any portion of the loaned amount to her estate. We find that the respondent violated Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 1.8(a) by entering into a business transaction with a client when the transaction was not fully disclosed in writing to the client, where the client was not given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel, and where the client did not consent in writing to the personal business transaction with her attorney.See footnote 1 1
transaction with his client without providing or ensuring the appropriate safeguards.See footnote 2
violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b) by his theft of the co-personal representative's funds and those
drawn on the decedent's bank account.See footnote 3
His theft also constitutes conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(c).See footnote 4
As to Count IV, we now find that on January 28, 1994, the president of a development company hired the respondent to pursue a civil action against a construction company and a municipal department of transportation. The president delivered to the respondent's office a package of documents and a retainer check for $500. A few weeks later, the president, believing that the respondent had taken no action, demanded return of the documents and retainer. The respondent never replied, failed to refund the retainer or to provide an accounting thereof, and did not return the requested documents.
We find that the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.16(d) by failing to return to his client the retainer or provide an account for the unearned portion of the retainer upon termination of representation.See footnote 5 5
the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(b).See footnote 7
By allowing the account in his trust account
to fall below an amount necessary to satisfy the obligation to the medical provider, the
respondent converted third-party funds and thus violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b).
The hearing officer concluded that the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(a), which provides in relevant part that lawyers shall hold the property of clients that is in the lawyer's possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer's own property. We have recognized that, under certain circumstances, a lawyer should be permitted to leave a nominal portion of earned fees in a client trust account for the protection an integrity of that account. Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(a); Matter of Lehman, 690 N.E.2d 696, 704 (Ind. 1997); Matter of Blumberg, 695 N.E.2d 114 (Ind. 1998). The reason for this exclusion from our anti-commingling rule is to allow lawyers to satisfy their client trust account's minimum balance requirements and/or nominal account maintenance charges. However, the amount of earned fees that the respondent left in the client trust account, $1,400, was more than nominal and there is no indication that he left those funds in the account only for account maintenance purposes. We therefore find that by failing to promptly withdraw his
earned fees from the trust account, the respondent commingled his funds with client funds
and thus violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(a).See footnote 8
Dishonesty and theft permeate the respondent's actions in this case. If he was not stealing his clients' money through methods of preconceived deceit or unethical trust account management, he was collecting their money by convincing them to purchase apparently bogus investments or to enter other impermissible business transactions with him. His sole motivation, apparently, was pecuniary gain at the expense of those he ostensibly undertook to represent. He failed to appear at hearing of this matter, and therefore we have nothing before us to mitigate or explain his actions. Accordingly, for the protection of the public and the profession, his misconduct warrants removal from practice.
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent, Steven J. Radford, is hereby disbarred. Accordingly, the clerk of this Court is directed to remove his name from the Roll of Attorneys.
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 the respondent.
A lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an
ownership, possessory, security or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless:
(1) the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and
reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner
which can be reasonably understood by the client;
(2) the client is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel
in the transaction; and
(3) the client consents in writing thereto.
Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing
time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee that has not been earned. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law.
A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by paragraph (d) or other law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in writing and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal, litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery, and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement
stating the outcome of the matter and, if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.
Upon receiving funds or other property in which the client or third person has an interest, a lawyer shall promptly notify the client or third person. Except as stated in this Rule or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client, a lawyer shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds or other property that the client or third person is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or third person, shall promptly render a full accounting regarding such property.
A lawyer shall hold property of clients or third persons that is in a lawyer's possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer's own property. Funds shall be kept in a separate account maintained in the state where the lawyer's office is situated, or elsewhere with the consent of the client or third person. Other property shall be identified as such and appropriately safeguarded. Complete records of such account funds and other property shall be preserved for a period of five years after termination of the representation. A lawyer may deposit his or her own funds reasonably sufficient to maintain a nominal balance.
Converted by Andrew Scriven