FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
Gary M. Spraker, pro se Donald
R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Seth Pruden, Staff Attorney
115 West Washington Street, Suite 1165
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) Case No. 98S00-0006-DI-379
GARY M. SPRAKER )
March 19, 2001
This attorney discipline case arises from the respondents faulty representation of 50 individuals
in immigration cases. In those cases, Respondent Gary M. Spraker either neglected
his clients legal affairs, provided bad legal advice to them, lied to the
client or others, or engaged in some combination of such misconduct. Today
we approve a Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline, submitted by
the Disciplinary Commission and the respondent, calling for the respondents suspension from the
practice of law for at least two years for that misconduct.
The respondent is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court by virtue of
his 1980 admission to practice law in Indiana. His Indiana license empowers
him to engage in a multi-jurisdictional practice in immigration law. Thus, while
the respondents office is in a different state and the clients he harmed
reside in that state, we are apparently the only place where action against
his license can be taken. Our hearing officer reported that persuading these
clients to come to Indiana for a hearing was proving difficult, in light
of their special sensitivity to crossing borders. Accordingly, we authorized the hearing
officer to conduct hearings in Illinois in the event that an evidentiary hearing
should prove necessary. This was practical in light of our proximity to
the site of the events. It is not always so.
See, e.g., Matter of Tracy, 676 N.E.2d 738 (Ind. 1997) (attorney licensed in
Indiana but practicing before the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the state of
The verified complaint charges the respondent with 50 counts of misconduct, each involving
a separate case or client of the respondent. We find that in
counts 1 through 20, the respondent agreed to represent clients in immigration matters.
In each of those cases, the respondent violated our Rules of Professional
Conduct for Attorneys at Law, by, among other things, failing to take appropriate
action or otherwise failing to provide competent representation; failing to advise the client
properly; lying to or misleading clients, third parties, or the Commission; failing to
attend hearings; failing to communicate with clients adequately; retaining unearned fees; charging unreasonable
fees; engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; failing to file
timely appeals, and filing frivolous claims. His misconduct led to unnecessary delay,
the deportment of some of his clients, and the loss of employment or
income by others. Through this misconduct, the respondent violated Ind. Professional Conduct
Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.16(d), 2.1, 3.1, 3.4(c), 8.1(a), and 8.4(c)
In counts 21 through 49, clients hired the respondent
to assist them in obtaining permanent residency in the United States. The
respondent charged each client $500. In each case, he submitted to the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) an application for permanent residency but failed to
mark the appropriate box or reference on the INS form showing the grounds
for relief asserted. In some cases he did provide written notations, such
as replenishment of farm worker or suspension of deportation, but these were not
valid grounds for relief. The INS initially determined that the applications were
without merit and issued notices of intent to deny relief. That action
prompted a hearing before an immigration judge at which the client was to
show cause why the client should not be deported. In each case,
the respondent knew or should have known that the client was ineligible for
permanent residency based upon the applications he prepared. The respondent filed the
non-meritorious applications as a means of obtaining employment authorizations for his clients, without
regard to the merits of the case. In fact, he ignored legitimate
grounds for obtaining permanent residency status for some of his clients, including one
client whose child was born in the United States. We find that
the respondent, by filing frivolous applications for permanent residency, violated Prof.Cond.R. 3.1.
His actions prejudiced the administration of justice, in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(d).
As to Count 50, we find that the respondent represented an Australian client
seeking permanent residency in the United States. The clients father was a
permanent resident. The respondent submitted an application for permanent residency for the
client as the unmarried son of a permanent resident. While the matter
was pending, the client married and, therefore, no longer qualified as an unmarried
son of a permanent resident. At that point, the client should have
left the United States and applied for a new visa to allow him
to reenter the country on other grounds. The client did not leave,
and the respondent failed to submit a new application. The respondent falsely
claimed to the Commission that he had submitted the new application and that
the INS had approved it. By the misstatement, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R.
8.1(a) and 8.4(c).
The agreed sanction is a two-year suspension from the practice of law without
automatic reinstatement thereafter. As a mitigating factor, the respondent and the Commission
agree that the respondent experienced a very large influx of cases between 1995
and 1997 due to a change in immigration law. He was unable
to properly manage the case volume which he accepted during the period.
A substantial pattern of client neglect generally warrants a significant period of suspension.
See, e.g., Matter of Warren, 708 N.E.2d 873 (Ind. 1999) (suspension for
not less than one year for six counts of neglecting immigration matters, aggravating
circumstance of prior discipline). Here the respondents conduct went substantially beyond neglect.
While the respondent here has never before been disciplined, his misconduct tainted
the representation of some 50 clients, many of whom faced imminent legal consequences
attaching to their entitlement to stay in this country. Given the seriousness
of the misconduct, we approve the agreed sanction only because it is the
product of an agreement.
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent is hereby suspended from the practice
of law in Indiana for not fewer than two (2) years, effective April
23, 2001. At the conclusion of that period, he may be reinstated
to the practice of law in Indiana upon his successful petition pursuant to
Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23(4).
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. 1.1 requires attorneys to provide competent representation to clients.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.2 provides in relevant part:
A lawyer shall abide by a clients decisions concerning the objectives
of representation, subject to paragraphs (c), (d) and (e), and shall consult
with the client as to the means by which they are to be
pursued. A lawyer
shall abide by a clients decision whether to accept an offer of settlement
of a matter. . . .
(d) A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage or assist a
client, in conduct
that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a lawyer may discuss
legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may
counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine
scope, meaning or application of the law.
(e) When a lawyer knows that a client expects assistance not permitted by
Rules of Professional Conduct or other law, the lawyer shall consult with the
client regarding the relevant limitations on the lawyers conduct.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.3 requires an attorney to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in
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
the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.5 requires that a lawyers fee be reasonable.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.16(d) provides in relevant part:
Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent
reasonably practicable to protect a clients interests, such as giving reasonable
notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering
papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance
payment of fee that has not been earned. . . .
Prof.Cond.R. 2.1 requires that a lawyer, in representing a client, exercise independent professional
judgment and render candid advice.
Prof.Cond.R. 3.1 provides:
A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert
therein, unless there is a basis for doing so that is not frivolous,
a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.
A lawyer for the defendant in a criminal proceeding, or the respondent in
proceeding that could result in incarceration, may nevertheless so defend the
proceeding as to require that every element of the case be established.
Prof.Cond.R. 3.4(c) prohibits an attorney from knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules
of a tribunal except for an open refusal based on an assertion that
no valid obligation exists.
Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(a) prohibits attorneys from knowingly making a false statement of material fact
in connection with a disciplinary matter.
Prof.Cond.R. 8.4 provides in relevant part:
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: . . .
engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.