Outspoken attorney and blogger, Paul Ogden, is facing disciplinary actions and the possibility of losing his law license over his public criticism of an Indiana judge, according to the Indiana Lawyer. However, he is not going down without a fight.
Ogden is fighting back, going after the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, arguing that the disciplinary actions against him are an abuse of the attorney discipline process. He has filed a counterclaim, according to the Indiana Lawyer, stating that the charges against him filed by the commission are violating his First Amendment rights to free speech and saying he has been targeted.
“I think they have a grudge against me,” Ogden told the Indiana Lawyer “I did touch the third rail … I criticized the Disciplinary Commission.”
Some of the statements made include a critical piece Ogden published in January 2011 on his "Ogden on Politics" blog where he pointed out that only three of 400 disciplined attorneys in the state worked at Indiana's 24 largest firms. One month after that statement he received his first grievance, Ogden's counterclaim lists.
Another grievance came after Ogden criticized the handling of an estate matter by Hendricks Superior Judge David Coleman in emails shared with opposing counsel. According to the Indiana Lawyer, Ogden wrote that Coleman “should be turned in to the disciplinary commission for how he handled this case. If this case would have been in Marion County with a real probate court with a real judge, the stuff that went on with this case never would have happened.” He argued that the estate in question's value went from $1 million to nothing due to improper judicial oversight. In one of the emails, it is alleged that Ogden accused the judge of being friends of the family, implying misconduct to benefit the executor of the estate.
The commission claims he violates Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct and that these and other statements were false or reckless, and that Ogden implied the judge “was either dishonest, or allowed others to be dishonest in the administration of the estate."
“In 20 years on the bench, I have never had an attorney attack my integrity in writing in this manner,” Coleman wrote to the Indiana Lawyer. Ogden refused, citing his First Amendment rights in his reply. “I stand by my statements regarding how you handled this estate,” Ogden wrote.
The Indiana Disciplinary Commission will not address the details of the case, but Executive Director G. Michael Witte told the Indiana Lawyer that attorneys' speech is more highly regulated due to the nature of their position.
“We’re in a position where our speech is held to a higher standard because of the impact of that speech,” Witte said. “Even outside of lawyer discipline, free speech is not absolute.”
No hearing is set at this time.