FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME
COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
THE CONTEMPT OF THE )
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA OF )
) Case No. 45S00-9809-DI-506
ZENA D. CRENSHAW, )
We find that the respondent, attorney Zena D. Crenshaw, is in contempt of this Court
for failing to abide by investigative subpoenas issued to her by the Indiana Supreme Court
This case began on September 18, 1998, when the Commission filed its Verified Information and Motion for Order to Show Cause why Respondent Should not be Held in Contempt of Court. On January 8, 1999, the respondent filed her Verified Motion to Dismiss
for Lack of Jurisdiction over Subject Matter. The Commission responded on January 20,
1999. On January 25, 1999, we issued an Order to Appear and Show Cause, directing the
respondent, in the event this Court denied her motion to dismiss, to appear and show cause
why she should not be held in contempt of this Court for her failure to respond to the
Commission's subpoenas. We denied the respondent's motion to dismiss on February 18,
1999, and, accordingly, held a show cause hearing on February 23, 1999. The respondent
appeared in person and the Commission was represented by staff attorney Robert C. Shook.
The respondent was admitted to the practice of law in this state in 1984, and maintains
a private law practice in Gary, Indiana. A grievance was filed with the Disciplinary
Commission alleging that respondent had acted unethically and, in effect embezzled assets
from her mother's estate to the detriment of her siblings. We have no basis at this point to
evaluate this claim. The only event before us is the allegation and the fact that during the
course of the Commission's investigation of alleged dishonest conduct on the part of the
respondent, it sent to her two investigative subpoenas pursuant to Ind.Admission and
Discipline Rule 23(9)(f).See footnote
The subpoenas demanded production of certain documents
relating to the alleged misconduct. Each was sent to her address as she had reported it to the
Roll of Attorneys. The second subpoena was sent by certified mail and was duly
acknowledged by the returned green card. It was accompanied by a warning that her
failure to comply with it could subject her to contempt proceedings. She never complied
with either subpoena.
During the pendency of these proceedings, the respondent challenged the jurisdiction of the Commission and this Court by filing a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleging therein that certain provisions of Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23, governing attorney disciplinary proceedings, are constitutionally invalid. The district court dismissed the complaint on July 1, 1998, saying that federal intervention was unnecessary given that Indiana disciplinary proceedings, inter alia, provide adequate opportunity for the respondent to raise constitutional challenges. On July 16 the federal court declined to amend its findings and judgment. The respondent appealed that decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, where it was affirmed on March 15, 1999. On August 21, she sought a writ of prohibition from the Seventh Circuit against the Commission, which was denied. She is now seeking review of that denial by the United States Supreme Court. Claims of the unconstitutionality of the Commission's investigation, along with a narrative of her attempts to block the investigation with federal court intervention, constitute the substance of her January 8, 1999, motion before this Court to dismiss this contempt proceeding.
At the hearing on the Commission's motion to hold the respondent in contempt, the respondent made very general reference that bias on the part of the the complaining party
and the Commission staff fuels these proceedings.See footnote
She asked that she be allowed to
conduct discovery in order to substantiate her claims of bias and requested that she be
allowed to preserve her other challenges. She also claimed that it is proper to wait and allow
her to exhaust all avenues of redress with the federal courts before this matter is allowed to
Subpoenas may be subject to motions to quash, but we note that none has been filed with this Court in this case.See footnote 3 Nonetheless, we will take the respondent's oral presentation as constituting a motion to quash and consider it in that light. In a civil case, the usual grounds for quashing a subpoena duces tecum are unreasonableness or oppressiveness. Newton v. Yates, 353 N.E.2d 485 (Ind.Ct.App. 1976). The burden is on the moving party to show why documents responsive to the subpoena should not be produced. Id.
The respondent's claims of bias are not supported by any substantive evidence at all, including even so much as a description of their nature, or who is claimed to be biased. In any event, claims of bias do not stop the Commission's investigation of alleged misconduct in its tracks. Lawyers, by virtue of their privilege of holding licenses to practice law, are duty-bound to respond to the Commission's requests for information. See Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 8.1(b) (lawyers in connection with disciplinary matters shall not knowingly
fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority). This
heightened obligation to comply with demands for information exceeds the obligation
imposed upon nonlawyer citizens. If there is any basis for claiming the proceedings against
the respondent are not being pursued in good faith by the Commission or anyone else, the
respondent has provided us with no evidence to support that claim.
The respondent's other unsupported allegations, still unspecific after almost a year since their genesis, provide no evidentiary basis to quash the subpoenas. The federal courts have declined at every turn her invitations to intervene in this matter. Presumably this reflects their view that the proper, indeed only means to challenge the propriety of a pending investigation by the Disciplinary Commission is to appear and respond on the merits to the allegations. In fact, we view her strategy as not so much to put before us legitimate assertions of bias, but rather to use vague and wholly unsubstantiated claims of bias on the part of unidentified persons to camouflage attempts to dictate the procedure employed to resolve the grievance. She cites to us precedent stating that one cannot be held in contempt for failing to abide by an order which a court has no authority to issue. State ex rel. Leffingwell v. Superior Court No. 2 of Grant County, 262 Ind. 574, 321 N.E.2d 568 (1974). While that may be accurate as an abstract legal proposition, it has no application to this case because the subpoenas the respondent ignored are valid.
Because the respondent has presented no grounds for quashing the subpoenas, we are left only with the fact that she twice knowingly refused to comply with their directives. As such, we find that her conduct is contemptuous.
she complied with the hearing officer's orders compelling discovery.
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