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Ogden receives 30-day suspension for criticizing judge

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Indianapolis attorney and blogger Paul Ogden has been suspended for 30 days by the Indiana Supreme Court based on comments he made regarding a judge who presided over an estate case involving Ogden’s client.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission brought two counts against Ogden in March 2013. Count I stems from comments he made regarding Hendricks Superior Judge David H. Coleman, who was appointed special judge in an unsupervised estate case. Ogden successfully had Coleman replaced on the case. In 2010, Ogden made several “highly critical” comments about Coleman in correspondences.

The comment that resulted in Ogden being disciplined alleged that the judge committed malfeasance in the initial stages of the administration of the estate by allowing it to be opened as an unsupervised estate, by appointing a personal representative with a conflict of interest, and by not requiring the posting of bond, the disciplinary order states.

“Respondent’s repeated and virulent accusations that Judge Coleman committed malfeasance in the initial stages of the administration of the Estate were not just false; they were impossible because Judge Coleman was not even presiding over the Estate at this time—a fact Respondent could easily have determined. Because Respondent lacked any objectively reasonable basis for (these) statements, we conclude that Respondent made these statements in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity, thus violating Rule 8.2(a),” the justices unanimously held in an order handed down Monday.

The commission did not meet its burden of proof regarding the other comments Ogden made regarding Coleman, the justices found, leading the court to find Ogden’s criticisms of Coleman’s rulings fall within his broad First Amendment rights. And although another allegation of a conflict of interest turned out to be false, it was based upon Ogden’s client’s reports to him. The justices found Ogden’s allegation that Coleman was unqualified as a judge and that he engaged in judicial misconduct in presiding over the state were “more in the nature of opinions as opposed to statements of fact.”

Count II deals with letters Ogden sent to the Marion Superior Court, Civil Division, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, the Indiana attorney general and the Marion County public safety director, asking that they ensure the law regarding forfeiture is followed and enforced. At the time the letters were sent, Ogden was not representing any party in pending forfeiture cases.

The justices concluded that the Disciplinary Commission did not present clear and convincing evidence that the letters Ogden sent were prejudicial to the administration of justice.

They also noted that Ogden has been “obstreperous rather than cooperative” during the course of this disciplinary proceeding.

His suspension begins Aug. 5 and he will be automatically reinstated. Ogden is to pay one-half of the costs and expenses of this proceeding, along with a $250 fee.

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  • What Justice?
    This is why citizenry have little to no faith in our judicial system. Indiana Supreme Court just rubber stamped actions by a Judge who's running a "Kangaroo Court" Five years is far too long for estate case to be open and dragging on. Finally when he received word that he was being criticized for his inaction he jumps in to quash his antagonizer, then uses his power as a judge to go after Ogdon, If judge Coleman can't take criticism why is he a sitting judge.
  • What about lying?
    Freedom of speech is one thing, but this states that Odgen made false statements. This should not be tolerated when there is a manner in which to remedy it - thus a slap on the hand via the 30 days suspension.
  • Appalled by Actions of the State
    I am a former state employee and am just appalled by the actions of the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission in this matter. Clearly, this is/was a personal vendetta against Paul Ogden that got out of control. I hope the adults in charge of the Supreme Court will take a hard look at this matter and take action against the exec director of the commission and others who wasted valuable resources, time and effort in this silly matter. This is not state government or the Supreme Court's finest hour.
  • win for ogden, good for supremes
    Considering the prosecuting side wanted to suspend him for a year if I recall correctly, this is a big win for Ogden. And rightfully so. Lawyers shouldn't automatically have lost their right to free speech opinions just because we have a license. It's totally unfair and you can see how easily the disciplinary process can be used to try and silence critics. The right to criticize public officials is at the heart of the First amendment. With all the disgusting obscenity today parading around on the internet "freely" at the same time, the suggestion that a lawyer can't criticize a judge makes a mockery of the notion of "rights"

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