Justices disbar attorney, threaten imprisonment

A patent attorney who continued to practice law despite being suspended in Indiana has been disbarred by the Indiana Supreme Court for his “ongoing, pervasive and deliberate” violations of the suspension order.

The justices handed down the disbarment to Christopher E. Haigh, effective Wednesday.

Haigh must also pay a $1,000 fine for repeatedly practicing law, even though he knew he was suspended.

He was suspended effective Aug. 15, 2008, after he was caught having sexually intimate relationships with two minor teen girls on a rowing team he coached for the International School of Indianapolis. He also provided them alcohol, and falsely assuring their parents, school officials and others that he had no inappropriate relationship with the teens.

Haigh never sought reinstatement after the suspension and instead continued to practice and perform legal functions for clients.

Haigh, a Purdue University and Indiana University School of Law graduate, began practicing law in 2000 at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis. During that time he began coaching the rowing team.

He moved to Chicago in 2004 after taking a position with a new law firm. He resigned as rowing coach the same year but continued to see the girls while helping the team during competitions in Chicago and elsewhere.

He was also admitted as an attorney at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the federal courts, which also suspended him after learning of the state suspension.

The court opinion found Haigh’s actions, which included performing significant legal work while holding himself out to be acting as a paralegal, in contempt of the suspension order.

Haigh refused until the last day of his disciplinary hearings in the matter to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct, the opinion notes.

“Respondent’s violation of the Suspension Order was ongoing, pervasive, and deliberate, and it exposed the public to the danger of misconduct by an attorney who has yet to prove his remorse, rehabilitation, and fitness to practice law through the reinstatement process,” the justices wrote.

The court also cautioned "that any further contempt by respondent will likely result in imposition of a period of imprisonment.”

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