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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

TAKING CLIENT'S KIDS FOR A RIDE LEADS TO SUSPENSION

Indiana Attorney, Cecelia Hemphill, was suspended 6 months for taking a client's children for a ride without alerting the children's mother.  Hemphill, believed that the mother's boyfriend had molested one of the children and that the children were in grave danger.  The daughter, claimed that the mother's boyfriend had touched her inappropriately. 

Since Hemphill wanted to talk to the children alone, she had the father write a note to the principal of the children's school stating she had permission to pick the children up from school.  Hemphill, was questioned by the secretary of the school but was eventually was allowed to pick the children up early from school.  Hemphill then called the children's sitter and told her that she (Hemphill) had the children and that they were going to meet with the father for dinner. During this time, Hemphill questioned the children about the possible molestation but it was never mentioned.  After dinner with their father, Hemphill continued to drive them around for a few hours before returning them (after 6 hours) to their mother, who had working with the Sheriff's department to find them. 

Indiana's Supreme Court Disciplinary Committee charged Hemphill with violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 4.1.(a) [Knowingly making a false statement of material fact to a third person in the course of representing a client], 4.4(a) [Using means in representing a client that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person], 8.4(a) [Engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation], and 8.4(d) [Engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice].

The Supreme Court of Indiana held that the Commission failed to met the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence regarding Rules 4.1(a) and 8.4(a).  Regarding violating Rule 4.4(a), the Supreme Court sated that "[B]y intimidating the school secretary into releasing the children to [her] and by causing Mother great anxiety over their safety, [Hemphill] used means that had no substantial purpose other than to burden third persons in violation Professional Conduct Rule 4.4(a)."  The Court stated that Hemphill's purposes could have been accomplished by more appropriate means.  Finally, with regards to Rule 8.4(d), the Court felt that by failing to abide by the orders and procedures of the divorce court and the child protective services and by only using her own judgement instead that of the courts and child protective services, Hemphill engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice.  Hemphill took matters in her own hands while ignoring the laws and agencies that are designed to deal with allegations of child abuse. 

The Supreme Court suspended Hemphill from practicing for 6 months without automatic reinstatement. 

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