The Indiana Supreme Court has placed an attorney on probation, after finding that she withdrew unearned funds from her client trust account. In the Matter of Jennifer L. Graham, an attorney wrote a check to herself from her client trust account in the amount of $1,100, and wrote the words “HELP ME” next to the check number in her account ledger book. A few days later, she wrote another check in the amount of $550 with the same phrase written in the ledger. When she presented the second check for payment, it was dishonored. She repaid the $1,100 several days later.
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission (“IDC”), subsequently issued a complaint for disciplinary action. After investigating the matter, the IDC discovered that the attorney had used the funds to re-pay a gambling debt. The attorney cooperated fully throughout the entire investigation, admitted that she suffers from a compulsive gambling addiction, and sought rehabilitative treatment and counseling. A hearing took place before a specially appointed judge, who heard evidence and reported his findings to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court found that the attorney’s conversion of client funds reflected adversely on her reputation for honesty and trustworthiness in violation of the Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(b), and constituted fraud and misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(c). The Court suspended the attorney for 60 days, but stayed the suspension pending a 2 year probation subject to various requirements, including enrollment in the Indiana Judge and Lawyers Assistance Program.
Decision: In re Jennifer L. Graham