Attorney Misconduct, Crime, Legal Ethics, Minority Issues, Racism, Rudeness

Indy Lawyers Need a Crash Course on Basic Ethics, ASAP

The problem of Hoosier lawyers misbehaving is reaching epic proportions. We’ve already told you about Olubunmi Okanlami, the Indiana law grad who allegedly suspected her boyfriend of cheating, attacked him as well as correctional officers, and wore two bras to prison so she could hide a weapon in between.

We’ve already told you about Kirmille Welbon, a deputy prosecutor in Indiana who allegedly attacked the wife of a man she was sleeping with (more on her later). Both of these incidents came to light within the last 30 days.

And now we have another name to add: Daniel C. McCarthy. This guy just got suspended from Indiana Bar for 30 days (without automatic reinstatement) because he can’t even keep it together long enough to write an email…

McCarthy’s actions weren’t as serious as the alleged misconduct of the two women. You know the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but… do you have a freaking razor blade in your bra? Are you freaking crazy?” But McCarthy still engaged in some inappropriate behavior. Here’s the summary of Daniel McCarthy’s deeds, from the published order signed by Randall T. Shepard, Chief Justice of Indiana (McCarthy is “Respondent”):

Respondent was an officer of a title company who gave legal advice to the company and represented it in legal disputes. The title company became involved in a dispute regarding a cloud on the title of property subject to a sale agreement. At some point, the agent representing the seller directed his secretary to send an email to Respondent demanding that he arrange a meeting of all involved in the dispute. In response, Respondent sent an email to the secretary stating:

“I know you must do your bosses [sic] bidding at his direction, but I am here to tell you that I am neither you [sic] or his nigger. You do not tell me what to do. You ask. If you ever act like that again, it will be the last time I give any thought to your existence and your boss will have to talk to me. Do we understand each other?”

Jesus, Indiana attorneys, what is wrong with you? The NASCAR off-season is like two months long; you’re not duty-bound to create your own flaming car wrecks during this brief interlude in the automotive carnage.

Obviously, the Indiana Supreme Court was unimpressed with McCarthy’s email:

Respondent vehemently denies committing any misconduct, has offered no apology or other indication of remorse, and has a prior disciplinary suspension. We therefore conclude that a period of suspension is warranted and that Respondent should go through the reinstatement process to prove his understanding of his ethical duties and remorse before resuming practice.

For Respondent’s professional misconduct, the Court suspends Respondent from the practice of law in this state for a period of not less than 30 days, without automatic reinstatement, beginning January 28, 2011.

Thanks to the Above the Law commenters, I think I have a pretty good idea of how McCarthy vehemently denied that he committed any misconduct. It’s got to be something like how he wasn’t calling the secretary the N-word, or how use of that word alone does not constitute an unprofessional act, or something like that. I’m sure some of the commenters will give you a more full defense of McCarthy. It’s Friday afternoon and I don’t feel like delving too deeply into the head of a guy who throws around the N-word in an professional context.

But regardless of what McCarthy’s defenses might have been, he still failed at that key lawyer skill of showing discretion. And the lack of discretion seems to be a plague that is spreading all over the Indiana bar. I mean look, I like Pirates of the Caribbean too. I particularly like the scene where Johnny Depp says: “The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do.” But let’s not forget that Johnny Depp is playing a pirate. Not a white-collar professional. Not a lawyer. Lawyers have to think about what a man can do, what a man can’t do, and what a man should or shouldn’t do to avoid looking like an embarrassing douchebag.

Sure, you can use the N-word in a letter to a secretary, or go over and menace the wife of a dude you’re banging, or claw out the eyes of a corrections officer. But should you do these things? Is that a wise career move for you? Of course not! So don’t do it. This isn’t brain surgery.

In any event, Kirmille Welbon would count herself lucky if she got off with a 30-day suspension like McCarthy did here. She’s already lost her job:

The prosecutor’s office announced its decision to fire her Thursday afternoon after a special prosecutor in a morning court hearing formally charged her with felony residential entry and misdemeanor charges of battery with injury and criminal trespass.

“In this case, given the severity of the charges, we felt the appropriate action was to terminate her employment,” said Laurel Judkins, chief counsel for the prosecutor’s office.

Welbon had worked for the prosecutor’s office since August 2009 and made an annual salary of about $54,000, including benefits.

She and her attorney declined comment after her hearing Thursday morning.

This might be a good first step for all Hoosier lawyers. Every lawyer in Indiana should hire a lawyer. Think of it like “the buddy system”: every lawyer is responsible for one other lawyer, or they both get in trouble with the judge. It worked in kindergarten.

In re Daniel C. McCarthy [Supreme Court of Indiana]
Deputy prosecutor fired after being charged with battery [Indianapolis Star]

Earlier: Lawyer of the Day: Indiana Lawyer Accused of Beating Her Boyfriend, Roughing Up Corrections Officer
Lawyer of the Day: Deputy Prosecutor / Other Woman Allegedly Beats Up Wife

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