Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Indiana Supreme Court opinion which disbarred a lawyer for a “repugnant pattern of behavior and utter lack of remorse”, deceitful responses and lack of candor, neglect involving an appeal, unwillingness to appreciate the wrongfulness of his misconduct, and propensity to shift blame to others and see himself as the victim. The case is In the Matter of R. Mark Keaton, No. 02S00-1302-DI-95 (April 21, 2015). The link to the opinion is here: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/04211501per.pdf
According to the opinion, the lawyer, who was married at the time, began a romantic relationship with his daughter’s roommate. The roommate ended the “tempestuous long-distance relationship” in March 2008 and “from March 2008 through April 2010, at least 7,199 emails were exchanged between The lawyer and the roommate), the vast majority sent by (the lawyer). Both (the lawyer’s) oral and written communications to (the roommate) were threatening, abusive, and highly manipulative in nature.”
The lawyer also left “profoundly disturbing” voice mails on the roommate’s telephone and the opinion gave an example of one of the them: “(Shouting) Call me the f— back! I don’t know who the f— you think you are. But I’ll tell you what, you better f—ing call me f—ing back now! You f— with me one more time and this time you’ll really f—ing pay for it! And you need to think about it! Now you f—ing quit f—ing with me!”
The lawyer also threatened suicide and carried through on his threat to post nude photos of the roommate, by sending them to others in e-mails, posting them on adult websites, and posting them on his own blog, along with “disparaging diatribes” about her. According to the opinion, the lawyer still refuses to take down his blog. The lawyer also filed three lawsuits against the roommate and others and “made duplicitous statements to the (disciplinary commission) in reference to those related proceedings.”
The lawyer argued that his contact with the roommate was mutual and consensual. He further argued that she had a form of mental illness and her requests for him to stop contacting her actually indicated her desire to submit to him. He also argued that his actions did not constitute stalking or harassment.
The opinion states that this “outrageous behavior falls woefully short” of the ethics requirements that lawyers be of good moral character and fitness. “Put simply, (the lawyer) engaged in-and continues to engage in-a scorched earth campaign of revenge in the wake of being dumped by (the roommate) seven years ago”. “Most disturbingly, despite the entreaties of (the roommate) and several others, (the lawyer) simply has refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.” The Court disbarred the lawyer effective immediately since the lawyer was already suspended and imposed costs.
Bottom line: This case involves some very disturbing conduct by a lawyer who apparently went off the deep end and engaged in outrageous conduct when an individual with whom he was having a relationship (his daughter’s former roommate no less) broke it off. This case is disturbing on multiple levels, including the apparent complete lack of recognition by the lawyer that his conduct was outrageous and unethical and arguing that it was not stalking or harassment.
Be careful out there (and of course don’t do this).
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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Clearwater, Florida 33759
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