FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
No appearance. Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
115 West Washington Street Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 02S00-9902-DI-145
ROLAND W. GARIEPY )
October 8, 2002
Under a 17-count complaint for disciplinary action, we find that attorney Roland W.
Gariepy failed to take action on behalf of his clients, failed adequately to
communicate with them about their cases, failed to refund unearned advance-paid legal fees
or surrender case file materials to his clients upon termination of representation, and
failed to cooperate with the Disciplinary Commission during its investigation of these matters.
The respondent was also criminally convicted of filing a false federal income
tax return. We conclude that these acts warrant his disbarment.
This matter comes before this Court upon the hearing officer's findings of fact
and conclusions of law, filed after review of the Commissions application for judgment
on the complaint. The Commission filed its application pursuant to Ind.Admission and
Discipline Rule 23(14)(c), which directs that the allegations contained in the Commissions verified
complaint for disciplinary action be taken as true where the respondent fails to
answer the complaint.
The respondent is a suspended attorney, formerly practicing law in Fort Wayne, Indiana,
who was admitted to practice law in the state of Indiana on November
19, 1969. On April 9, 1999, this Court suspended the respondent
lite from the practice of law due to his felony conviction of failing
to file an income tax return for 1993.
Under 13 counts contained in the verified complaint, the facts found by the
hearing officer are roughly the same: the respondent would undertake to represent
a client, then fail to take action consistent with the clients wishes or
fail to take action at all. The clients, concerned over the progress
of their legal matters, attempted to contact the respondent with no success.
In five of the counts, the respondent failed to refund unearned advance-paid legal
fees or return to clients case file materials to which they were entitled
upon termination of representation. In some instances, clients had to resort to
formal legal action to secure return of unearned fees from the respondent.
In 13 of the counts, the respondent failed to respond to the Commission's
later demands for responses to the client grievances filed against him.
We now find that the respondent failed to provide competent representation in violation
of Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 1.1; that he failed to abide by clients decisions
concerning the objectives of their representations in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.2(a); and that
he failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing his clients
in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.3. He violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(a) by failing
to keeps his clients reasonably informed about the status of their legal matters
and promptly to comply with reasonable requests for information from his clients about
the status of their cases, and Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(b) by failing to explain matters
to one client to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to
make informed decisions regarding the representation. By failing to surrender to his
clients papers and property to which they were entitled upon termination of representation,
the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.16(d). By failing to comply with the Commissions
lawful demands for information, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b).
In addition to the foregoing examples of neglect of his clients cases, the
respondent also engaged in other misconduct. Pursuant to Count 8, we find
that a client sued the respondent for malpractice. The respondent settled the
matter by agreeing to pay the client the sum of $200 per month.
Several of the respondents settlement checks were dishonored for insufficient funds.
The respondent later failed to respond to the Commissions demands for response to
the clients grievance against the respondent.
We find that by his conduct in Count 8, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R.
8.4(b) by committing a criminal act, check deception, that reflects adversely on his
honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer in other respects, and Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b).
As to Count 14, we find that the respondent agreed to defend a
client against a charge of driving under the influence. The client paid
the respondent a $1,500 retainer. After negotiating a plea and representing the
client through sentencing, the respondent billed the client $1,000. When the clients
father later called to complain in light of the earlier $1,500 payment, the
respondent stated that the $1,500 was a retainer and hung up on the
father. The respondent later failed to reply to the Commissions demands for
a response to the clients grievance.
By failing to advise his client of the rate or basis for his
fee before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation, the respondent
violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.5(b). By failing to respond to the Commission, he violated
Under Count 15, we find that the respondent received a refund check for
$13,700 on behalf of a client. The respondent lost the check in
one of the client's other files. While the check was lost, the payor
stopped payment of the check.
We find that the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(a) by failing to keep his
client's property in his possession in the course of a representation identified and
Under Count 17, we find that the respondent was charged by information on
November 13, 1998 in the United States District Court for the Northern District
of Indiana with four counts of filing false income tax returns for the
years of 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993, all in violation of 26 U.S.C.
§7206(1) and felonies under the laws of the United States. Also on
November 13, 1998, the respondent and the United States filed a "Plea Agreement"
in the respondent's case in which the respondent agreed to plead guilty to
Court 4 of the charge, alleging that he knowingly filed a false income
tax return for the 1993 tax year. On December 4, 1998, the respondent
executed a waiver of indictment and entered a guilty plea to Court 4.
On February 12, 1999, the respondent was convicted of filing a false return
for 1993 and sentenced to four months incarceration in the U.S. Bureau of
Prisons beginning April 5, 1999; one year of supervised release after incarceration, and
ordered to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of
$45,731. The respondent did not respond to a demand from the Commission
for information in response to the grievance based on the respondent's conviction.
We find that by his conviction and subsequent failure to respond to the
Commissions demand for information, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b) and 8.1(b).
The hearing officer recommended that the respondent be disbarred. We note that
in similar cases of serial neglect of client matters, this Court has ordered
See, e.g., Matter of Williams, 764 N.E.2d 613 (Ind. 2002) (six
counts of client neglect, along with failure to cooperate with the Commission); Matter
of Radford, 746 N.E.2d 977 (Ind. 2001) (14 counts of neglect of client
matters and willful deception of clients). Filing a false federal income tax
return has also garnered significant sanction. See, e.g., Matter of Transki, 620
N.E.2d 16 (Ind. 1993) (felony filing of false federal income tax90 day suspension
from the practice of law). Finally, the respondents failure to refund client
funds and his persistent refusal to cooperate with the Commission is also serious
misconduct warranting stringent sanction.
Accordingly, we find that the respondent, Roland W. Gariepy, should be disbarred.
The Clerk of this Court is directed to strike his name from the
Roll of Attorneys.
The Clerk of this Court is further directed to provide notice of this
order in accordance with Admis.Disc.R. 23(3)(d) and to Everett E. Goshorn, the hearing
officer in this matter, 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.