This is not how to mentor a fledgling lawyer.
An Indiana attorney has been suspended from practice for three years for pursuing a romantic relationship with a summer law clerk and attempting to destroy her legal career when she rejected his advances.
The Supreme Court of Indiana on May 17 ruled that Arthur Usher violated eight of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct—including committing a criminal act, knowingly making a false statement to the state’s Disciplinary Commission and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
The court blocked Usher from the practice for at least three years, without automatic reinstatement. One judge, Stephen David, dissented because he believed disbarment was warranted, the opinion said.
According to the ruling, the episode began in the summer of 2006, when a female law student at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law became a summer associate at Indianapolis law firm Bose McKinney & Evans, where Usher was a partner. Usher and the associate, dubbed Jane Doe in court papers, developed a social relationship when she returned to law school for her 3L year.
Usher departed for a position at the law firm Krieg DeVault and pursued a romantic relationship with the former intern, according to the opinion, but Doe rebuffed his advances and the social relationship soured in 2008.
"Respondent then began attempting to humiliate Jane Doe and to interfere with her employment prospects," the court found.
According to the court, Usher obtained a clip of a horror movie in which Doe had appeared—apparently topless, although she would testify that a body double was used—and he sent the clip to an attorney at Bose, which had offered her a job. Usher suggested that the recipient show the clip to the firm’s executive committee, but the recipient declined.
Next, Usher created a fictitious thread of emails purportedly from female attorneys outraged that Bose would hire a new associate who had appeared in such a film and concerned that her employment would tarnish the firm and its relationship with clients. He instructed his paralegal to send the email and film clip from an untraceable computer to more than 50 attorneys at prominent local firms, including Bose.
Shortly thereafter, Doe obtained a protective order against Usher and he was forced to resign from Krieg DeVault. (He has since worked as a sole practitioner.) She filed a grievance against him with the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and a civil lawsuit. During discovery in the civil suit, Usher denied any involvement in sending the email.
Usher later argued that sending the email was protected under the First Amendment and that he had not done it in any professional capacity and therefore had not violated any rules of professional conduct. The court rejected both arguments, as well as his contention that his misstatements in the civil case were not subject to the professional conduct rules because he had been a litigant.
"Respondent has shown no substantial remorse or insight into his misconduct," the court wrote. "It is this lack of insight that leads us to believe that a substantial sanction is necessary to ensure that the seriousness of his misconduct is impressed upon him and that similar misconduct is not repeated in the future."
Usher’s suspension was to begin on June 28.
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