This matter is before the Court on the report of the hearing officer appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission’s “Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action,” and on the post-hearing briefing by the parties. We find that Respondent, Douglas W. Patterson, engaged in attorney misconduct by his conversion of client funds, deceit in concealing his misconduct, and dishonesty with the Disciplinary Commission.
Conclusion (slip op. at 6): Respondent violated Rule 1.15(a), Rule 8.4(b), and Rule 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. For this professional misconduct, the Court suspends Respondent from the practice of law in this state for a period of not less than three years, beginning July 31, 2008.
Key Analysis (slip op. at 4): Respondent’s justification of his withdrawal of funds from the Trust Account is that he believed the firm owed him additional compensation and that one check was repayment of a loan. Yet he took the funds out secretly, did not use the established procedure for taking funds out of the Trust Account, took steps to conceal the withdrawals, and initially lied to his partner about writing the checks. His actions are not consistent with how a partner would assert a claim for additional compensation from his firm . . . We also find that the hearing officer did not improperly presume the converted funds were client funds and thus shift to Respondent the burden of proving they were not . . . even if some of the funds in the Trust Account were not client funds, it does not change the character of Respondent’s withdrawals. They still constitute conversion, only from the firm or a third party other than clients.
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