INDIANAPOLIS — How serious is it for an attorney to be called before the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission?
“It’s extremely serious,” says IU Law School Professor Jody Madiera.
This is the situation Attorney General Todd Rokita finds himself in. His office confirms that there are complaints against him on file with the Disciplinary Commission. In a statement to FOX59CBS4, Rokita dismissed the complaints as “grievances…often based on incomplete if not false information. While I object to the weaponization of the disciplinary process, I also respect it. I will continue fully cooperating.”
But Rokita did not disclose the nature of the complaints against him, and neither has the commission and that’s by design.
“Matters pending before the Commission are confidential while they’re under investigation,” explained Madiera.
The nine commission members and the staff are prohibited from even acknowledging the existence of a complaint or investigation.
The process of examining a complaint can take months. In a court filing the attorney Rokita hired, Gene Schaerr, disclosed he was handling a complaint filed with the Disciplinary Commission in July of last year.
If a complaint leads the commission to conclude there is probable cause to believe an attorney has committed “malpractice,” it is forwarded to the Clerk of the Supreme Court. When the clerk places the matter on the Supreme Court docket, that’s the first time existence of the case is publicly disclosed.
At that point, a hearing officer is appointed to examine the investigation to date. All court proceedings in this phase are open to the public.
Should the hearing officer conclude attorney malpractice did occur, that decision and a recommended punishment are forwarded to the Supreme Court.
But even if the state’s high court decides an attorney is guilty of malpractice, depending on the punishment chosen, details of the case may still be withheld.
If an attorney is sanctioned with a private administrative admonition or private reprimand only, the punishments are announced but not any of the specific details leading to the punishments.
But if an attorney receives a public reprimand, short or long-term suspension of their law license or disbarment, details of the infractions are shared publicly.
Given the details of its discipline process, which the Indiana Supreme Court oversees, it only provided this information today: “The Attorney General is in good standing with no disciplinary history.”