FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
Frederick Shull, Pro Se Donald R.
Lundberg, Executive Secretary
424 Central Avenue Fred Rice, Staff Attorney
Connersville, IN 47331 115 West Washington Street, Suite 1165
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) Case No. 21S00-9906-DI-358
FREDERICK H. SHULL )
February 5, 2001
The respondent, Frederick H. Shull, intentionally skipped seven court proceedings at which he
was scheduled to appear to defend his client against criminal charges. The
respondent later testified he purposely missed the hearings in an attempt to stall
the case and gain dismissal of the charges. The charges, in fact,
were dismissed, prompting the respondent to testify that he should be complimented for
his delay tactics. He is wrong. We suspend the respondent from
the practice of law for six months for this professional misconduct.
Having been admitted to the bar of this state in 1974, the respondent
is subject to our disciplinary jurisdiction. The Disciplinary Commission charged the respondent
with violating Rule 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for failing to
inform his client of the hearings and
for the respondents failure to attend those hearings
See footnote ; Prof.Cond.R. 3.2 for breaching his
duty to expedite litigation consistent with his clients interestsSee footnote ; Prof.Cond.R. 3.4(c) for ignoring
a specific order of the court to appearSee footnote ; Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b) for failure to
respond to the Commissions request for information about this incidentSee footnote ; and Prof.Cond.R. 8.4
for engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.See footnote
A hearing officer was appointed to this case, and, after a hearing, tendered
his report to this Court, determining that the respondent had committed professional misconduct.
Where, as here, the hearing officers report is unchallenged, we accept and
adopt the findings contained therein with the understanding that final determination as to
disciplinary violations and sanction rests with this Court.
Matter of Campbell, 702
N.E.2d 692 (Ind. 1998).
Within this review context, we now find that the respondent represented the client
against charges of domestic battery in a court in Union County. The
respondent appeared on behalf of his client at a telephonic pre-trial conference on
June 10, 1997, during which a follow-up pre-trial conference was set for July
21, 1997. The respondent did not appear at the second pre-trial conference.
He also did not appear at four subsequently scheduled court hearings between
August 25, 1997 and January 16, 1998.
On January 30, 1998, the trial court ordered the respondent to appear on
March 9, 1998. The respondent, again, failed to appear. On March
11, 1998, the court set the matter for trial on May 7, 1998
and ordered that the trial would proceed in absentia if the respondent and
his client did not appear.
The respondent never advised his client of the various court dates or the
consequences of failing to appear. Consequently, the client was not present at
any of the hearings, including his trial scheduled for May 7. After
unsuccessfully attempting to telephone the respondent when the respondent failed to appear on
the trial date, the trial court, in keeping with its earlier order, proceeded
to hear the states evidence and took the matter under advisement. On
October 28, 1998, the criminal charges were dismissed.
After a grievance was filed against the respondent, the Commission demanded a response
from the respondent, as required by Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23, Section 10(a).
Although the respondent received that certified mailing from the Commission, he did
not respond. The Commission sent two further requests for response, which the
respondent also ignored.
We find that the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(a) by failing to keep his
client reasonably informed about the status of his case. Specifically, the respondent
failed to inform his client about the court settings and of the respondents
failure to appear at those proceedings. The respondent, by not advising his
client about the several court appearances and the possible consequences for failing to
appear, failed to explain the criminal proceeding to the client to the extent
reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation,
in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(b).
The respondent also violated Prof.Cond.R. 3.2, when he intentionally and repeatedly failed to
appear for scheduled court proceedings without excuse. By refusing to respond to
a lawful demand for information from the Commission, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b).
We further find that the respondent, through his pattern of obstreperous actions,
engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Prof.Cond.R.
A finding of misconduct necessitates a determination of proper sanction. In making
that determination, we consider the misconduct, the respondents state of mind underlying the
misconduct, the duty of this court to preserve the integrity of the profession,
the risk to the public in allowing the respondent to continue in practice,
and any mitigating or aggravating factors.
Matter of Mears, 723 N.E.2d 873
(Ind. 2000). We note as an aggravating factor that the respondent was
privately reprimanded by this Court in 1997.
We also find as an aggravating circumstance the respondents acknowledged practice of missing
court appearances as a means of manipulating the judicial system to his or
his clients advantage. In his testimony before the hearing officer, the respondent
minimized the importance of court settings, suggesting that trial courts set hearings in
cases as a means of keeping track of dockets, rather than for purposes
of meaningful activity in those cases. Further evidence of the respondents disdain
for orderly judicial process is evident in the following exchange during the hearing:
Hearing officer: . . . Id like for you to speak to
if you would. You had talked about the kernel
of this being attorney neglect, and youre saying,
it wasnt neglectful, I knew what was going
on, and it ultimately turned out all right . . .
. . .
Respondent: You know, this would have been well done, that
a boy, you know. Thats what we meant to do,
we did it. Oh, Im sorry. No, theres no
sanctions. I should get a compliment on this.
I mean thats what we set out to do. That was the
tactic that we did. Thats what worked. . .
Hearing officer: Okay. So, youre arguing for no sanction?
Respondent: Yes. I think a compliment is in order for
the results obtained on this case.
Transcript at 22-24.
Courts set matters for hearing for a variety of purposes, some ministerial and
some substantive. Regardless of the underlying action or reason for hearing, counsel
has a professional obligation to appear as directed. Intentional absence from a
court hearing is open defiance of a court order. Misconduct of this
kind delays the administration of justice, inconveniences all others involved in the proceeding,
wastes judicial resources, potentially compromises the interests of clients, and subjects the attorney
to possible charges of contempt or, as here, professional misconduct. See,
e.g., Matter of McCord, 722 N.E.2d 820 (Ind. 2000) (suspension for no fewer
than sixty days for lawyer's misunderstanding and misapplication of rules and regulations governing
federal appellate practice, and repeated failure to comply with procedural requirements and deadlines).
The respondents consistent failure to respond to the Commission in its investigation
of his absences from hearings underscores his disregard for judicial authority and professional
Given our finding of aggravating circumstances, we conclude that a suspension of six
(6) months without automatic reinstatement is appropriate under the circumstances. Accordingly, we
order that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a
period of not fewer than six months, beginning March 5, 2001, without automatic
The Clerk of this Court is directed to provide notice of this order
in accordance with Admis.Disc.R. 23(3)(d) 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 in this state, and the Clerk of each
of the United States Bankruptcy Courts in this state with the last known
address of the respondent as reflected in the records of the Clerk.
Costs of this proceeding are assessed against the respondent.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.4 provides:
A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a
and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit
client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
Footnote: Prof.Cond.R. 3.2 requires that (a) lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to expedite
litigation consistent with the interests of the client.
Footnote: Prof.Cond.R. 3.4 provides in relevant part:
A lawyer shall not: . . .
knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal except for an
refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists . . .
Footnote: Prof.Cond.R. 8.1 provides in relevant part:
An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer in connection with
a bar admission
application or in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not: . . .
(b) . . . knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for
an admissions or disciplinary authority, except that this Rule does not
require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6.
Footnote: Prof.Cond.R. 8.4 provides in relevant part:
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: . . .
(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. .
Footnote: The hearing officer made no finding with regard to the charge that
the respondent had violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(d).