Attorney for the Respondent
Attorney for the Indiana Supreme Court
Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Robert C. Shook, Staff Attorney
Indiana Supreme Court
IN THE MATTER OF
PATRICK S. RYAN, Respondent.
Today, we find that the respondent, Patrick S. Ryan, violated Ind. Professional Conduct
Rule 1.7(b) by operating a business that obtained international drivers licenses for individuals
charged in the Goshen City Court with driving license offenses, while at the
same time serving as a part-time deputy prosecutor in that court. For his
misconduct, we further find that respondent should be suspended from the practice of
law for nine (9) months.
The following facts are admitted. At all relevant times respondent was a part-time
deputy prosecutor in Elkhart County assigned to the Goshen City court. Respondent observed
that many Latino motorists were being charged in the Goshen City court with
driving without licenses (a class C misdemeanor) or without a license in possession
(a class C infraction). As a general practice, the court permitted the
state to reduce the original charge to a lesser charge or an ordinance
violation, if the defendant provided proof of obtaining a valid license.
Respondent, along with his wife, started a business venture, Legal Licensing Limited (LLL),
aimed at obtaining international drivers licenses for individuals at a cost of $275.
His wife was LLLs only employee, with an office in the respondents law
office. Respondent enlisted the city courts interpreter to recruit (for $20 each) customers
for the new business. The interpreter assisted respondent in preparing a set of
instructions and procedures for obtaining international drivers licenses and she helped explain LLLs
services to defendants in the Goshen City court. The interpreter would collect a
$100 initial payment from a defendant and pass it on to respondent, often
near the court. After an international drivers license was obtained, respondent would exchange
it with the court interpreter for the balance owed by the defendant. The
interpreter then delivered the license to the defendant. The defendant would then present
the license to respondent in court and, in return, respondent would amend the
initial charge to a lesser charge. Respondent collected over $20,000 in fees from
about 150 customer/defendants between October 2000 and December 2001. On January 15, 2002,
respondent resigned as a deputy prosecuting attorney after meeting with the prosecutor concerning
his involvement and participation with LLL.
We find that the admitted facts clearly and convincingly establish that respondent violated
Ind. Professional Conduct Rule 1.7(b), which prohibits a lawyer from representing a client
if the representation of the client may be materially limited by the lawyers
own interests. In this case, respondent's duties as a deputy prosecutor conflicted with
his interests related to his business, LLL.
Having found professional misconduct, we must now determine the appropriate discipline. In making
this determination, we consider the nature of the misconduct, the lawyers state of
mind which underlies the misconduct, actual or potential injury flowing from 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 Lehman, 690 N.E.2d 696 (Ind. 1997).
As a deputy prosecutor, respondent served a public trust to enforce the law
and the state was entitled to his undivided loyalty. Matter of Cole, 738
N.E.2d 1035 (Ind. 2000). Respondents conduct breeds mistrust and lack of confidence in
the judicial system. He used his position as a deputy prosecutor to obtain
a significant financial windfall for himself. By serving both as prosecutor and as
intermediary for those seeking a favorable plea agreement, respondent gave the impression that
justice could be bought. As a public officer charged with the administration of
justice, respondent's behavior had the capacity to bolster or damage the publics perception
of the criminal justice system. Matter of Seat, 588 N.E.2d 1262 (Ind. 1992).
Unfortunately, respondent chose to follow a path that damaged the perception of the
administration of justice. By conducting a business that impacted upon his resolution of
traffic violations, respondent violated the publics trust. This is serious misconduct, which cannot
be ignored. Matter of Curtis, 656 N.E.2d 258 (Ind. 1995) (dual representation of
client in small claims matter and of state in criminal investigation of clients
delinquent taxes warranted 30 day suspension); Matter of Holmes, 722 N.E.2d 818 (Ind.
2000) (two counts of official misconduct that included permitting a personal relationship to
influence duties with Attorney Generals office warranted six month suspension without automatic reinstatement);
Matter of Hughes, 640 N.E.2d 1065 (Ind. 1994) (submitting false reimbursement claims for
attending conferences and continuing legal education seminars while serving as city court judge,
resulting in felony convictions, warranted disbarment).
Though respondent has admitted his violation, in an attachment to his affidavit of
consent to discipline he demonstrates his failure to grasp the magnitude of his
misconduct. The attachment speaks to the validity of international drivers licenses and the
propriety of accepting them in reaching a plea agreement with defendants in the
court he served. Respondent does not seem to recognize the inappropriateness of prosecuting
defendants and simultaneously providing a business service to them designed to obtain a
favorable result in the prosecution.
In light of the above considerations, we conclude that the respondent should be
suspended from the practice of law for nine months. It is therefore, ordered
that respondent, Patrick S. Ryan, is hereby suspended from the practice of law
for a period of not less than nine (9) months commencing May 8,
2005, and at the conclusion of which the respondent may petition this Court
for reinstatement to the practice of law. In addition to the requirements set
forth in Ind. Admission and Discipline Rule 23, Section 4, the respondent will
also be required to demonstrate as a condition of reinstatement that he understands
the seriousness of his malfeasance and that he is fit to return to
the practice of law. Costs of this proceeding are assessed against the respondent.