Wednesday, July 31, 2013

First Amendment at Risk: Blogger / Lawyer Faces Discipline for Criticism of Judge

This is a bit off-topic, but it does deal with an important issue of free speech, which is
the life-blood of all writers.

Indianapolis lawyer / blogger / all-around gadfly Paul Ogden has been hauled before the Indiana Disciplinary Commission, an agency of the Indiana Supreme Court that is responsible for prosecuting disciplinary complaints against lawyers.

His "misconduct" which threatens his law license and his livelihood?  Sending a private email stating that a judge, who had already been removed from handling an estate.  Somehow the judge got wind of the negative comment and filed a disciplinary complaint.

Adding grist to the issue, just before the disciplinary proceedings were filed against Ogden, he had published a post highly critical of the disciplinary commission, pointing out that of the 400 complaints filed against lawyers during the final three years of the previous executive director, 397 were filed against solo and small firm lawyers.  Only three complaints were filed against lawyers in larger firms.

Ogden has expressed his view that this made him a target because of his critical postings.  He buttressed this in a post-hearing article (CLICK HERE) in which he pointed out that during the 11 1/2 hour hearing, the Disciplinary Commission utilized 5-6 lawyers, and presented boxes of files from the estate case.

Ogden's post contrasts this to the handling of numerous complaints against noted construction injury lawyer William Conour, who this month pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing  $4.5 million from more than 25 clients over several years.  Numerous disciplinary complaints had been filed against Conour for mishandling client money, but the Diciplinary Commission never charged him with misconduct until after he was indicted by a federal grand jury.

So the question remains:  how much right to free speech does one give up by becoming a lawyer, particularly a lawyer who posts comments critical of the state supreme court?

We'll see. The decision of the Indiana Supreme Court likely is months off.

photo credit: <a href="">kouk</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

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