FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
|James A. Schafer Attorney at Law 201 E. Jackson Street, Ste. 310 Muncie, IN 47305||Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary Fredrick L. Rice, Staff Attorney 115 West Washington Street, Ste. 1060 Indianapolis, IN 46204|
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 18S00-9801-DI-62
RICHARD W. REED )
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, in a Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action, charged Richard W. Reed with making statements about the qualifications of a judge with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statements, in violation of Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 8.2(a). Pursuant to Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23(11)(c), the commission and the respondent tendered for this Court's approval a Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline wherein they stipulate the facts and agree that the appropriate discipline for the respondent is a public reprimand. In addition, the respondent has submitted to this Court an affidavit as required
by Admis.Disc.R.23(11)(c). Upon review, a majority of this Court has decided to approve
the agreement and impose a public reprimand.
We find, as the parties have agreed, that Richard W. Reed is an attorney in good standing in the State of Indiana, having been admitted to the Indiana Bar on October 9, 1974. At all times relevant to this case, the respondent was, and currently still is, the duly elected prosecuting attorney of Delaware County, Indiana. In January of 1996, the Honorable Barbara Gasper Hines was the judge of the Delaware Superior Court No. 3, having been appointed to that position on September 1, 1995, by the Governor of Indiana to fill the vacancy in that court created by the retirement of the former judge. Prior to her assuming the bench, the Delaware County judges referred all welfare-related child support cases (Title IV-D) to be heard by a commissioner. On January 9, 1996, Judge Hines announced that she would begin presiding over the Title IV-D cases filed in her court rather than referring them to the commissioner. As Prosecuting Attorney, the respondent was responsible for providing legal representation to the State of Indiana in such cases.
The respondent strongly disagreed with Judge Hines's decision to hear the Title IV-D cases, and, on January 10, 1996, expressed his disagreement to Judge Hines in the presence of others. Thereafter, the respondent gave a press interview to reporters from The Muncie Evening Press and The Muncie Star. During the interview, the respondent made a number of disparaging statements about the qualifications and integrity of Judge Hines which statements were reported verbatim in newspaper articles that appeared in the local press
within days of the interview. Following are excerpted portions of the news articles quoting
Her arrogance is exceeded only by her ignorance, Reed said about Hines in an interview with the Muncie Evening Press.
The prosecutor had harsh words for Hines . . . 'Obviously Barbara has way too much time on her hands,' he said.
It's [Judge Hines' decision about hearing her own Title IV-D cases] just petty political squabbling, said Reed. Whenever Barbara Gasper Hines says anything, I can see a [certain Delaware County political figure's] lips moving.
[Judge Hines] also said she'd received reports that child support [Title IV-D court office] workers bought a bucketful of liquor and took it to work before giving it to another judge as a Christmas gift. Reed called the story 'pure fiction.' She's just making that up to justify her irrational behavior, Reed said.
She doesn't have any comprehension of what's going on with respect to those [Title IV-D] cases, Reed said. And she refuses to learn.
Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 8.2(a) provides that a lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office. A comment to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys at Law provides the following insight into the reasoning for this rule:
Assessments by lawyers are relied on in evaluating the professional
or personal fitness of persons being considered for judicial and public
legal offices. Expressing honest and candid opinions on such matters
contributes to improving the administration of justice. Conversely,
false statements by a lawyer can unfairly undermine public confidence
Shepard, C.J., dissents, and would reject the conditional agreement.
Dickson, J., dissents, and would reject the conditional agreement, believing the sanction is inadequate for the severity of this misconduct.
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 18S00-9801-DI-62
RICHARD W. REED )
The Court's decision to impose nearly the mildest possible sanction in this case is
difficult to justify in light of our decisions in other, similar matters.
For example, in Matter of Atanga, 636 N.E.2d 1253 (Ind. 1994), the Court suspended for thirty days the president-elect of the Marion County Bar Association for reckless remarks solicited by the editor of an obscure newsletter. That decision issued by a vote of three to two. I agreed then with many of Justice Sullivan's observations about why the penalty was too severe. Atanga was a relatively new lawyer, for example, and he had issued his remarks only upon solicitation and through a medium of so little circulation that there was probably no injury at all to the judicial system. Atanga, 636 N.E.2d at 1260 (Sullivan, J., dissenting).
In this case, of course, the respondent lawyer is not an inexperienced member of the profession but a seasoned veteran holding an office of great public trust. Moreover, he employed Muncie's biggest news outlet and used this platform multiple times for his attacks
on the court. The Atanga precedent seems to warrant weightier treatment of the current
violation than the majority gives it.
The same could be said concerning Matter of Turner, 631 N.E.2d 918 (Ind. 1994). In that case, the respondent lawyer made actionable remarks in court, about the court, and received a public reprimand. Two of us dissented, observing that the lawyer had lost his temper when a pro tem failed to remain in control and guard against appearances of preferential treatment, id. at 920 (Sullivan, J., dissenting), and that it seemed Turner was the only person held accountable in a situation largely created by the pro tem and opposing counsel, id. (Shepard, C.J., dissenting).
There is no sign of similar mitigating circumstances in the current case. Reed's assaults were not the product of any high-pressure moments, and they were not provoked by others. Thus, a public admonition seems too modest a response to the facts in this case. A short suspension seems warranted.
Dickson, J., concurs.
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