FOR THE RESPONDENT
FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPINARY COMMISSION
Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Robert C. Shook, Staff Attorney
115 West Washington Street, Suite 1060
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 49S00-0006-DI-388
KATHLEEN RANSOM RADFORD )
May 14, 2001
Kathleen Ransom Radford agreed to represent clients in legal matters, then failed to
take any meaningful action at all on their behalves, and ultimately abandoned her
law practice without seeing to it that the clients interests were adequately protected.
She also failed to refund to the clients almost $4,000 in unearned
retainer fees they had paid to her.
This attorney disciplinary case comes before us now upon the report of the
hearing officer who conducted evidentiary hearing on the Disciplinary Commissions 14-count complaint for
disciplinary action. The report finds misconduct as charged. The respondent
did not appear during any stage of this proceeding. Neither the Commission
nor the respondent has petitioned this Court for review of the hearing officers
report, as permitted by Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23(15). That being the
case, we adopt the hearing officers findings, but reserve final judgment as to
misconduct and discipline.
Our jurisdiction in this case is conferred by the respondents admission to the
bar of this state in 1982. She is currently not in
good standing, having been administratively suspended from the practice of law for failure
to pay her annual attorney registration fees or to comply with continuing legal
The fact patterns found by the hearing officer as to each of the
complaints 14 counts are essentially the same. In late 1998 or
early 1999, the respondent agreed to represent various clients in a variety of
legal matters: personal bankruptcies, the creation of a trust, a collection matter,
a wage dispute, a guardianship, a paternity action, a custody modification, and other
matters. Many of the clients paid to the respondent retainer fees.
After agreeing the handle the clients legal matters, the respondent thereafter failed
to take meaningful action on their behalves. On some occasions, the respondent
advised the clients that their desired pleadings had been filed before a tribunal,
or that their cases were otherwise proceeding, when in fact she had taken
no action. Later, communications between the respondent and the clients broke
down, with the clients being unable to contact the respondent to learn anything
about their legal matters in the respondents care. Ultimately, upon contacting the
respondents office, some clients were advised that she was no longer employed there.
Following the respondents abandonment of these clients cases, she failed to refund
to them unearned portions of retainers they had paid to her. The
aggregate amount of the unearned legal fees she failed to refund was approximately
In response to client grievances underlying each count of the Commissions complaint, the
Commission, pursuant to Ind.Admission and Discipline Rule 23(10)(2),
See footnote demanded from the respondent responses.
Despite the demands, the respondent never provided the responses.
Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.2(a) requires lawyers to abide by their clients
decisions regarding the objectives of representation.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.3 requires
lawyers to act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing their clients.
The respondent violated those rules by her consistent, complete failure to take action
on her clients behalves.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.4(a) provides that a lawyer shall
promptly comply with reasonable
requests for information from clients about the legal matters the lawyer is handling
on behalf of a client.
The respondent violated that rule by
failing to respond to her clients persistent inquiries about the status of their
cases. Professional Conduct Rule 1.4(b) requires that lawyers explain matters to
their clients to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make
informed decisions regarding the representation.
The respondent violated that rule by her
actions in each count when she abandoned representation of her clients interests without
prior notification or consultation with any of the clients.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(b) provides that a lawyers fee be reasonable. The
respondent violated that rule by collecting from her clients retainer fees upon agreeing
to provide specific legal services to them, then failing to ever refund those
fees after providing no meaningful service whatsoever.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.16(d) provides that lawyers, upon termination of representation, shall take
steps to protect the interest of their clients.
See footnote The respondent violated
the rule by failing to refund to her clients unearned retainer fees and,
in one instance, by failing upon termination of representation to return to the
clients case file materials to which the client was entitled.
Each of the respondents failures to respond to the Commissions demands for information
in response to client grievances violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b), which requires a lawyer to
respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority.See footnote
Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(c) provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer
to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. By advising
clients that their anticipated causes of action had been filed and/or that they
were progressing when in fact the respondent had taken no action, she violated
Having found misconduct, we must now determine an appropriate sanction. Factors we
consider in this assessment include the nature of the misconduct, the duty violated,
the lawyers mental state, the actual or potential harm caused by the misconduct,
the duty of this Court to preserve the integrity of the profession, and
the potential risk to the public in permitting the respondent to continue in
Matter of Drozda, 653 N.E.2d 991 (Ind. 1995). Serial
neglect by lawyers of their clients legal affairs indicates grave professional shortcomings activating
this Courts obligation to protect the public from unfit practitioners. Matter of
Roberts, 727 N.E.2d 705 (Ind. 2000). The present case depicts a
lawyer who simply walked away from her practice in total disregard for her
clients and legal process generally. Her actions, especially in light of her
failure to appear and defend herself against the Commissions charges,
See footnote demonstrate her unfitness
to continue in the profession. Historically, this Court has imposed the
severest of sanction in similar cases involving roughly analogous litanies of client abandonment,
misrepresentation, and fee commandeering, especially where there is little or no evidence of
See, e.g., Matter of McGrath, 626 N.E.2d 449 (serial neglect
of client matters and knowing deceit of clients warranted disbarment, in light of
lack of any mitigating factors); Matter of Hosea, 245 Ind. 680, 201 N.E.2d
560 (1964) (disbarment for collection of fees and subsequent failure to represent client).
See also Matter of Light, 741 N.E.2d 1245 (Ind. 2001) (three
year suspension in addition to three year pendente lite suspension for 13 counts
of client neglect and failure to refund unearned fees, where the record contained
evidence that the respondent attempted, albeit improperly, to elect inactive status at about
the time of his misconduct).
It is, therefore, ordered that Kathleen Ransom Radford is hereby disbarred. The
Clerk of this Court is directed to strike her name from the Roll
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 clerks of the
United States Bankruptcy Courts in this state with the last known address of
respondent as reflected in the records of the Clerk.
Costs of this proceeding are assessed against the respondent.
That rule provides, in relevant part:
If the Executive Secretary determines that [a grievance] does raise a substantial question
of misconduct, [the Executive Secretary shall] send a copy of the grievance by
certified mail to the attorney against whom the grievance is filed (hereinafter referred
to as "the respondent") and shall demand a written response. The respondent
shall respond within twenty (20) days, or within such additional time as the
Executive Secretary may allow, after the respondent receives a copy of the grievance.
Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.2(a) provides:
A lawyer shall abide by a clients decisions concerning the objectives of representation
. . . and shall consult with the client as to the means
by which they are to be pursued.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.3 provides:
A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.4(a) provides:
A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a
matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.4(b) provides:
A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit
the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.16(d) provides:
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 the employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property
to which the client is entitles and refunding any advance payment of fee
that has not been earned. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the
client to the extent permitted by other law.
Professional Conduct Rule 8.1(b) provides:
[A] lawyer . . . in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not:
(b) . . . knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand
for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority . . .
See, e.g., Matter of Radford, 698 N.E.2d 310 (Ind. 1998) (where
attorney failed to appear at hearing of disciplinary matter, the Court did not
have the benefit of explanation or any factors tending to mitigate the severity
of his misconduct).