FOR THE RESPONDENT
Jeffrey W. Mendes
One Virginia Ave., Ste. 200
Indianapolis, IN 46204
FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPINARY COMMISSION
Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Fredrick L. Rice, Staff Attorney
115 West Washington Street, Suite 1060
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 49S00-9804-DI-243
ROBERT L. GLASSER )
December 15, 2000
The hearing officer appointed to hear this attorney disciplinary matter has concluded that
respondent Robert L. Glasser converted his clients funds to uses unrelated to the
clients, lied to them about the status of their cases and about the
existence of settlements, neglected legal matters entrusted to him, and failed to cooperate
during the Disciplinary Commissions investigation of his actions. The hearing officers
report is now before us for final resolution of this matter.
The respondent was admitted to practice law in this state on November 18,
1975, and is therefore subject to this Courts disciplinary jurisdiction. Effective
June 24, 1999, this Court suspended him from the practice of law pending
final determination in this case, pursuant to his written consent to such a
Neither he nor the Disciplinary Commission has petitioned this Court for
review of the hearing officers report. That being the case, we adopt
the findings contained therein, but reserve final judgment as to misconduct and sanction.
Matter of Grimm, 674 N.E.2d 551 (Ind. 1996). The verified
complaint for disciplinary action underlying this case contains seven counts.
Accordingly, under Count I, we now find that on November 30, 1994, the
respondent began representing a client seeking workers compensation and social security benefits.
Although the Workers Compensation Board later directed the clients employer to resume making
payments to the client, it did not approve any attorney fees to be
paid from them. In May 1995, the employers insurer issued a check
for $2,024.11 to client, in the care of the respondent. Although the
respondent deposited the check into his client trust account, he failed to notify
his client of its receipt. After the deposit, the respondent wrote
several checks against the trust account, none of which were payable to his
client. By May 23, 1995, the balance of the trust account
was not enough to satisfy client and third party obligations.
The client began contacting the respondent regularly about the status of the payment.
The respondent failed to inform the client that he had received
the check, and instead told him that it was in the mail.
The respondent eventually acknowledged that he had received the check and
told the client that he had mailed him a separate check for the
proper amount. That statement was untrue and the client never received a
check from the respondent. The client eventually went to the respondent's office
to retrieve his money. The respondent wrote the client a postdated
check from his trust account for $1,519.29, which was $504.82 less than the
settlement. Despite the fact that the Board had not authorized an attorney
fee, the respondent told the client that he was retaining the difference as
On December 1, 1995, the respondent received a Case Readiness Order from the
Board member presiding over the case. It required the respondent to
file additional documentation, or risk substantial delays in the processing of the claim.
The respondent failed to comply with the order, resulting in suspension
of the clients claim. The client eventually provided the required documentation.
On October 28, 1996, the client fired the respondent.
Shortly after the client filed a grievance against the respondent, the respondent offered
to withdraw his petition for attorney fees from the clients settlement in return
for withdrawal of his grievance. On November 4, 1996, the Commission demanded
that the respondent provide a response to the clients grievance. The respondent
failed to provide a response.
The respondent agreed to serve as successor counsel on behalf of a client
regarding a workers compensation claim. The respondent obtained the case file,
which consisted of the employers report of the clients injury and an agreement
filed by the employers insurer to provide temporary disability benefits.
In early 1990, the respondent knew the client was relying on him to
file an application for adjustment of the claim, and provided his client with
an adjustment application to complete. In November 1990, the clients doctor prescribed
physical therapy, which the client received, paying the bill of $850.
The respondent advised the client that his impairment award was $3,300, less $700
attorney fees, and told him that he would negotiate for reimbursement of the
physical therapy bill. In fact, the insurer offered to settle for $2,750,
but the respondent did not inform his client of the offer.
Ultimately, the respondent never filed the clients claim. The statute of limitations
expired in October 1991, but the respondent failed to inform his client.
From 1991 through 1993, the client called the respondent monthly to check the
cases status. On occasions when the respondent returned the calls, he advised
the client that he was negotiating a settlement.
In May 1993, the client agreed to accept $3,300 plus $850 reimbursement for
the physical therapy, based on a bogus settlement form the respondent provided. The
respondent later gave his client another settlement form, this one calling for a
reduced settlement of $2,750, less attorney fees and expenses of $789. This settlement
agreement, like the one before, was fabricated.
In October 1994, the respondent provided his client with a bogus settlement check
for $1,961. The respondent told his client he was still negotiating the
medical reimbursement, which was false. Two weeks later, the respondent again lied
when he told his client that the opposing party agreed to pay $600
toward medical reimbursement and that a check would soon arrive. Ten days later,
the respondent said that he had the check and that he would fax
the client a copy, but never did. The client asked if he
could pick up the check; the respondent told him he was still negotiating
it. In late 1994, the client learned the true status of his
case. The respondent later failed to provide a response to the
clients grievance as demanded by the Commission.
In May 1989, the respondent agreed to pursue increased worker's compensation benefits for
a client, but subsequently missed the time limit for filing an application for
increased benefits. The insurer later moved to dismiss the claim as untimely.
On October 26, 1993, the hearing officer dismissed the claim pursuant
to an order to show cause. Throughout the representation, the client frequently called
the respondent to check on her case, but the respondent rarely returned her
calls. The respondent did not inform her that the Board dismissed her
claim. Instead, the respondent advised her that he had settled her claim
for $1,800 and that he was entitled to $1,400. Despite numerous
attempts, the client was unable to contact the respondent again until early 1995,
when the respondent again told her that he had settled her claim.
In February 1995, the respondent sent her bogus settlement papers, which she signed
and returned. The respondent continued to lead his client to believe a
settlement was forthcoming until June 1995, even after the client filed a grievance
against him. In September 1995, the client went to the respondent's office
to retrieve her settlement funds. The respondent gave her two checks.
The first was for $400 and the second, drawn from the respondents client
trust account, was for $1,000. The respondent asked the client to hold
the second check for one week until there was enough money in the
trust account to cover it. She tried to cash the second check
that day, but was told that the respondent's trust account contained insufficient funds.
That same day, the respondent deposited $600 from his general account into
his trust account.
In responding to the Commission after the clients grievance, the respondent claimed that
his representation of the client was limited by her inability to pay for
documentation necessary to prove her case. He also responded: Thus, with
[the clients] understanding and approval, and at her specific request, I entered into
negotiations and her claim was ultimately settled to her satisfaction."
On May 7, 1996, Commission investigators
requested copies of the settlement checks and
specific correspondence, but the respondent failed to comply. In December 1996 and
again in October and November 1997, the Commission subpoenaed copies of the settlement
checks and accompanying financial records from the respondent. The respondent claimed he did
not have the materials.
In August 1989, a client hired the respondent to appeal a denial of
Social Security disability benefits. In September 1992, the respondent notified his
client of an appointment for a medical examination. After that, he did
not contact her until March 1995, when he sent her a case update
form referring to enclosures she needed to complete. In 1995 and
1996, the respondent informed the client that he would contact her when he
heard anything about her appeal. The respondent also sent her copies of
three letters he sent the Social Security Administration in the summer of 1996
requesting to review her file.
In September 1996, the client visited the Social Security office and discovered that
the agency had no record of her appeal on file.
The respondent settled a worker's compensation case for $2,087 on behalf of a
client and deposited the settlement check into his attorney trust account. That
day, he issued a $517.40 check to himself from his trust account for
attorney fees. He then sent his client a check for $200.24, designating
it as full and final payment. He provided his client with no
written accounting explaining the amount retained or detailing disbursements.
Thereafter, the respondent should have had at least $1,569.60 in his trust account
to satisfy client obligations, but the balance in the trust account eventually fell
to $21.88. The disposition of the net amount of the remaining
settlement proceeds (less payment of one $200 medical bill) was never explained to
the client. Several times the client requested an accounting of the
settlement of her worker's compensation case. The respondent never responded.
The Commission twice demanded
a response from the respondent to the clients grievance, but the respondent failed
In early 1995, a client hired the respondent to represent her in a
worker's compensation matter. On May 13, 1997, the respondent informed her that
he had settled her case for $3,000, and provided her a check drawn
on his attorney trust account for $2,221. On May 19, 1997, the
respondent issued a check to himself drawn on his trust account for $500
for partial payment of his attorney fees. In fact, there had
been no settlement of the case.
On October 6, 1997, the respondent did in fact settle the case for
$4,500, and on October 13,1997, he had the client sign a settlement agreement.
The respondent falsely told the client that this settlement covered the original $3,000
of May 1997 plus an additional $1,500 he was able to get when
he subsequently reopened the settlement negotiations.
On November 21, 1997, the respondent deposited the $4,500 settlement check into his
attorney trust account. The respondent did not inform the client that he had
received the settlement check, or that he had deposited it into his trust
account. That day, the respondent wrote a check from his trust account
to himself in the amount of $2,221 as reimbursement for the amount he
provided to his client on May 13, 1997.
Between November 1997 and April 1998, the client on several occasions requested an
accounting of the proceeds from the settlement. The respondent failed to oblige.
The respondent should have been holding at least $1,279 from the settlement
in trust, but on December 29, 1997, the balance of the respondent's trust
account was $471.51, and by February 25, 1998, it fell to $45.44.
An unpaid third party bill that the client noticed had not been
paid by August 1997 remained unpaid for approximately one year, despite the clients
requests that the respondent pay the bill.
7, June 3, and June 12, 1998, the respondent issued checks to the
client drawn on his trust account totaling $888.28. The respondent never provided an
accounting or final disbursement statement to the client. The respondent never paid
to the client approximately $79.48 of settlement proceeds to which she was entitled.
Since the client filed her grievance against the respondent, he has
twice failed to comply with the Commissions demands for information.
In November 1997, the respondent settled a clients worker's compensation case for $9,500,
paid by two checks which the respondent deposited into his client trust account.
Thereafter, he disbursed, inter alia, a partial distribution to the client and
a $1,750 payment to himself for attorney fees. After the distributions,
the respondent should have been holding at least $6,000 of the proceeds for
obligations of his client and third parties.
On December 4, 1997, the respondent withdrew $3,950 from his trust for himself,
reducing its balance to $5,203.74. On February 18, 1998, when the
respondent made the final distribution of the proceeds, he had disbursed all but
$250 of the settlement proceeds. This amount was the balance of the respondent's
attorney fee, which he allowed to remain in his trust account.
The respondent later failed to respond to the Commissions demand for a response
to the clients grievance.
By deceiving his clients as to the status of their cases and the
existence of settlements, the respondent engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and
misrepresentation, in violation of Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(c). By converting client funds
to uses unrelated to the clients, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b), which prohibits
lawyers from engaging in criminal acts that reflect adversely on their honesty, trustworthiness,
or fitness as lawyers in other respects. By attempting to persuade a client
to withdraw a grievance against the respondent by offering to forgo a legal
fee, the respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in
violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(c). By failing to respond to the Commissions
demand for responses to clients grievances, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b). He
engaged in fraudulent and deceitful conduct in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(c) by telling
the Commission that he had negotiated a settlement on behalf of a client
when in fact he had not.
By allowing clients causes of action to expire due to the passing of
statutes of limitation, the respondent failed to act with reasonable promptness and diligence
in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.3. By failing to advise his clients of
such circumstances, and by generally failing to respond to their requests for information
about their cases, the respondent failed to keep them adequately informed to the
extent needed to permit them to make informed decisions regarding the representations, in
violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.4. In Counts V and VI, by not providing
his clients with written statements showing the method of determination of his contingent
fee, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.5(c). By failing to abide by
the case readiness order in Count I, the respondent failed to abide by
the obligations of a tribunal in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 3.4(c).
Professional Conduct Rule 1.15(a) provides that lawyers shall keep their own property separate
from property they hold for clients in connection with representations. By depositing
his own funds into his client trust account, and by failing to withdraw
his own earned fees from the account, the respondent violated the rule.
Rule 1.15(b) provides that after receiving property to which clients are third parties
are entitled, lawyers shall promptly deliver the property to them. The respondent
failed to do so on several occasions and therefore violated the rule.
Having found misconduct, we now turn
to the issue of proper sanction. In so doing, we note factors
in aggravation and mitigation. The hearing officer found several factors which aggravate
the respondents misconduct. The respondent made no effort at the hearing of
this matter to express any remorse for his misconduct, even though several of
the persons harmed by his misconduct were present at the hearing.
His actions reflect a pattern of misconduct involving multiple offenses. He repeatedly
misappropriated and misused client funds and often lied to clients to coverup what
he was doing, reflecting selfserving and dishonest motives. His acts demonstrate a
lack of honesty and integrity critical to the ethical practice of law.
The hearing officer found no factors in mitigation.
She recommends disbarment.
We agree with the hearing officers assessment that
the respondents acts indicate consistent dishonesty and untrustworthiness in dealings with clients.
His disregard for the Commission also evidences behavior incompatible with the privilege
of holding a license to practice law. Accordingly, we find that the
hearing officers recommendation should be approved.
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent,
Robert L. Glasser, is hereby 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 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.
Shepard, C.J., and Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, JJ., concur.
Rucker, J., dissents, and would suspend for three years, believing that disbarment is
not consistent with precedent.
The respondent previously made other, similar transfers. For example, on August
15, 1995, he deposited a check for $550 from his general account into
his trust account. On August 4, 10, and 28, he deposited his
own traveler's checks in the amounts of $1,300, $1,000, and $700 into his
The Indianapolis Bar Association initially investigated the grievance on behalf of
the Disciplinary Commission.