Attorney for the respondent
No appearance for the respondent
Attorney for the Indiana Supreme Court
Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Indiana Supreme Court
IN THE MATTER OF
CLIFTON BRUCE DAVIDSON, JR.,
August 31 , 2004
The Disciplinary Commission has charged the respondent, Clifton Bruce Davidson, Jr., with six
counts of attorney misconduct. Specifically, the Commission alleges that clients hired the respondent
to represent them in various matters for which he accepted retainers and/or filing
fees. After taking his clients money, the respondent took little or no
action on his clients behalves and failed to respond to their inquiries about
their cases. Ultimately, the respondent abandoned his law practice. Today we
find, as did the hearing officer, that the respondent violated the Rules of
Professional Conduct for Attorneys at Law and for this misconduct should be disbarred.
This action began on March 17, 2004, when the Disciplinary Commission filed a
Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action pursuant to Ind. Admission and Discipline Rule 23(12).
This Court appointed a hearing officer pursuant to Admis.Disc.R. 23(11)(b) to hear
this matter. The respondent failed to appear or to answer the Verified Complaint
and on May 23, 2004, the Commission filed an Affidavit and Application for
Judgment on the Complaint, pursuant to Admis.Disc.R. 23(14)(c). Pursuant to that pleading, the
hearing officer filed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on May 26,
2004. The hearing officers report is now before us for final resolution
as the final arbiters of misconduct and sanction. Matter of Morris, 656
N.E.2d 257 (Ind. 1995).
In related proceedings, on January 15, 2004, the Commission filed a Verified Emergency
Petition for Order of Interim Suspension pursuant to Admis.Disc.R. 23(11.1) and a Verified
Petition to Show Cause Why the Respondent Should Not be Suspended for Failure
to Cooperate with the Disciplinary Process. This Court suspended the respondent on
an interim emergency basis on March 26, 2004, and suspended the respondent on
May 10, 2004 for his failure to cooperate with the disciplinary process.
Both of these suspensions remain in effect.
The respondents admission to this states bar in 2001 confers disciplinary jurisdiction over
this matter. Under Count 1 of the Verified Compliant, we now find that
a client hired the respondent in July 2003 to file a discrimination suit
against her employer and her union. Pursuant to a written attorney services
contact, she paid the respondent $150 for the filing fee. The respondent
neither filed suit nor responded to the clients numerous subsequent letters inquiring as
to the status of the contemplated action. The client scheduled a meeting
with the respondent at his office in November 2003, but the respondent cancelled
Under Count 2, we find that in October 2003, a client hired the
respondent to handle an employment discrimination matter. The client paid the respondent $800
towards a $1,500 retainer. The respondent did not file suit as requested by
the client. Thereafter, the client was unable to contact the respondent, even to
pay the balance of the retainer.
Under Count 3, we find that a client hired the respondent in July
2003 to handle a domestic relations matter. The client agreed to pay a
$400 non-refundable retainer fee and $200 per hour for the respondents services pursuant
to a written fee agreement. The respondent filed a dissolution action on
August 15, 2003. Thereafter, the client was unable to reach the respondent
for information about his case and in January 2004, discovered the respondent had
abandoned his law office.
Under Count 4, we find that in March 2003, a client hired the
respondent to handle an employment claim against the United States Postal Service.
The client paid the respondent a $2,000 non-refundable retainer fee. Afterwards, the
respondent did not file suit on the clients behalf and did not communicate
with the client about the status of the case. In December 2003,
the client wrote to the respondent demanding a refund of his money, but
the respondent failed to respond.
Under Count 5, we find that a client hired the respondent in September
2003 to handle a claim against a fellow employee and the clients employer.
The client paid a $1,000 non-refundable retainer fee. After hiring the
respondent, the client was unsuccessful in attempts to contact the respondent and the
respondent did not communicate with the client.
Under Count 6, we find that in June of 2002, a client hired
the respondent to pursue a wage claim against his employer. The respondent filed
suit in September 2003. Court records indicate no further activity thereafter and
reflect that a summons was never filed. In November 2003, the respondent
notified the client that the employer would be sending a check to settle
the wage claim. The respondents representation that the claim was settled was
false. The client did not receive a settlement check and the employer
never paid any funds to settle the clients claim. The client has been
unable to contact the respondent since his case was filed.
We find further that sometime during November of 2003 the respondent abandoned his
law office without notifying his clients and without leaving contact information for his
clients. On January 16, 2004, the Commission filed a verified petition pursuant
to Admis.Disc.R. 23(27) seeking the appointment of an attorney to inventory the respondents
files and take such action as appropriate to protect the interests of the
respondent and his clients. The respondent failed to appear or contest the
proceedings and on January 23, 2004, the Marion Circuit Court appointed a Reviewing
Master to take possession of and inventory the respondents client files.
We find that, by his misconduct in Counts 1-6, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R.
1.3 by failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing his clients; 1.4(a)
by failing to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status on their
cases and not responding to their reasonable requests for information; Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(b) by
failing to explain matters to the extent reasonably necessary to permit his clients
to make informed decisions regarding representation; Prof.Cond.R. 1.16(d) by terminating representation of his
clients without taking steps reasonably practicable to protect his clients interests; Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b)
by committing criminal acts, to wit: theft and/or conversion by receiving client funds
for a filing fee and legal services and retaining the money without filing
suit or performing legal services; and Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(c) by engaging in conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.
Having found misconduct, we must now assess an appropriate sanction. In so
doing, we examine the nature of the misconduct, the actual or potential injury
flowing from the misconduct, the respondents state of mind, the duty of this
Court to preserve the integrity of the profession, the potential injury to the
public in permitting the respondent to continue in the profession, and any mitigating
or aggravating circumstances. Matter of Drozda, 653 N.E.2d 991(Ind.1995). The hearing officer
recommended that the respondent be disbarred.
The respondent engaged in a serious pattern of neglect of his clients and
eventually abandoned his practice altogether. In so doing, he converted clients retainer fees
and filing fees. Disbarment is appropriate in instances of knowing conversion of
client funds where the client is harmed or where a lawyer engages in
serious criminal conduct involving fraud or theft. American Bar Association Standards for
Imposing Lawyer Sanctions 4.1, 4.61, 5.11. Disbarment has been imposed where lawyers serially
neglected client matters and where lawyers engaged in patterns of deception and conversion
of client funds. See e.g. Matter of Jarrett, 657 N.E.2d 106 (Ind.1995)
(disbarment for pattern of dereliction of duty, abandonment of client's interests and blatant
disregard of financial responsibilities), Matter of Good, 632 N.E.2d 719 (Ind.1994) (disbarment for
conflict of interest, failure to preserve client's property, dishonesty, fraud and deceit), Matter
of Meacham, 630 N.E.2d 564 (Ind.1994) (disbarment for continuing pattern of intentionally deceptive
conduct designed to convert clients' money to attorney's own use), Matter of Williams,
764 N.E.2d 613 (Ind.2002) (six counts of client neglect, along with failure to
cooperate with the Commission), Matter of Radford, 746 N.E.2d 977 (Ind.2001) (14
counts of neglect of client matters and willful deception of clients).
The respondent in the present case absconded with his clients money, abandoned his
practice without warning, and failed to respond to any of the subsequent disciplinary
proceedings. For the protection of the public and to ensure the integrity
of the bar, we find that the respondents misconduct deserves the most severe
punishment and that he should be disbarred.
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent, Clifton Bruce Davidson, Jr., is hereby
disbarred. The Clerk is directed to strike his name from the Roll of
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 the Hon. Robert W. Freese,
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
of this state, and the clerks of the United States Bankruptcy Courts in
this state with the last know address of the respondent as reflected in
the records of the Clerk.
Costs of this proceeding are assessed against the respondent.
All Justices concur.