Geisler, Matter of, 75S00-9105-DI-374

Citation614 N.E.2d 939
Decision Date07 June 1993
Docket NumberNo. 75S00-9105-DI-374,75S00-9105-DI-374
PartiesIn the Matter of David M. GEISLER.
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Charles A. Asher, South Bend, for respondent.

Jeffrey D. Todd, Staff Atty., Indianapolis, for Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Com'n.


The respondent, David M. Geisler, was charged in a complaint for disciplinary action with engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice by obstructing the prosecuting attorney's access to evidence, in violation of Rules 3.4(a), 8.4(c) and (d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rule 7-102(A)(7) of the preceding Code of Professional Responsibility. The disciplinary charges arose out of his representing Larry Baughman on child molesting charges. This court appointed the Honorable Daniel Molter as hearing officer who heard the evidence and tendered his report on findings and conclusion. The respondent challenged many of the findings and conclusions, and the Disciplinary Commission filed its response.

The review of disciplinary cases is de novo, and this court examines all matters presented. This includes a review not only of the hearing officer's report but also of the entire record tendered in the case. The hearing officer's findings receive emphasis due to the unique opportunity for direct observation of witnesses, but this court remains the ultimate factfinder and arbiter of misconduct and sanction. Matter of Levinson (1992), Ind. 604 N.E.2d 599; Matter of Smith (1991), Ind., 579 N.E.2d 450; Matter of Gemmer (1991), Ind., 566 N.E.2d 528. Respondent's challenges to the findings will be addressed within the context of such review.

Respondent further contends that delay in the filing of this proceeding impaired his ability to defend himself and that, under such circumstances, an outright finding for the respondent can be appropriate. This issue was a subject in the parties' closing arguments. Although the hearing officer did not specifically address it in his findings and conclusions, by finding misconduct, he impliedly found respondent's contention unpersuasive.

The parties stipulated that the Disciplinary Commission decided in December of 1987 that probable cause existed and directed the filing of a verified complaint. The complaint, however, was not filed until May 17, 1991, and the Commission gave no reason for this delay.

No statute of limitation exists for bringing disciplinary proceedings. There may be factual situations in which the expiration of time destroys the fundamental fairness of the entire proceeding, thus, rising to the level of due process violation. Matter of Wireman (1977) 270 Ind. 344, 367 N.E.2d 1368; Matter of Wm. Briggs (1987), Ind., 502 N.E.2d 879. However, mere delay, as in this case, does not preclude a disciplinary proceeding. Respondent likens his theory of defense to the doctrine of laches. In civil matters this ancient equitable doctrine consists of three elements: inexcusable delay in asserting a right; implied waiver from knowing acquiescence in existing conditions; and circumstances resulting in prejudice to the adverse party. Haas v. Holder (1941), 218 Ind. 263; 32 N.E.2d 590; Estate of Dorothy Gerke v. Estate of Elmer Gerke (1991), Ind.App. 580 N.E.2d 972; Simon v. City of Auburn, Ind., Bd. of Zoning Appeals (1988), Ind.App., 519 N.E.2d 205. Some jurisdictions have recognized the equitable doctrine of laches as a defense in disciplinary matters but only upon the showing of specific prejudice. Some consider the delay as a factor in determination of the appropriate discipline to be imposed; in others, delay is not considered a bar. 1

This court has not had an occasion to consider whether laches may be a defense to a disciplinary proceeding. We note that the record before us only indicates unexplained delay in the filing of a verified complaint during a confidential stage in the process when the complaint remained out of the public sphere. Respondent cross-examined each witness extensively and had ample opportunity to challenge their memory and credibility. In the end, the adverse witnesses remained consistent in the gist of their testimony. In light of this, we find that this case does not present an appropriate factual basis for addressing the issue.

Having considered the entire record before us, we find that the respondent has been a member of the Bar of this state since October 12, 1978. In 1986, he was retained by Larry Baughman to represent him on six counts of child molesting and attempted child molesting. Respondent entered his appearance in the case on November 14, 1986. The complaining witness was Carolyn Baughman, Larry Baughman's wife, and the victim was their daughter. The defendant had threatened Carolyn Baughman, and she feared physical violence from her husband. Nonetheless, no CHINS petition was filed nor was there any legal restriction preventing the defendant from contacting or residing with the family during the pendency of his prosecution. After the arrest, the defendant was released on bail and for some two or three months preceding his trial lived with the victim and the complaining witness.

In the course of the representation, the respondent learned that the defendant's acts of molestation had continued for few years prior to the arrest and that the defendant had a noteworthy criminal record. Carolyn Baughman did not want her daughter to testify at trial and made respondent aware of her feelings. The hearing officer concluded that she feared her husband and also did not want to expose her daughter to the trauma of the criminal process. There was some testimony that perhaps she was fearful of breaking up her marriage and being unable to manage on her own. Whatever her reasons, it was clear that she did not want her daughter to testify at trial.

The initial strategy for the defense was to have the family unit seek and complete counseling and use this fact to urge favorable treatment in a plea negotiation and/or sentencing determination. Carolyn Baughman preferred a Christian counselor, and respondent and his secretary, Janis Sims, referred the family to a pastor. Those attempts, however, were unproductive, and Mrs. Baughman continued in her conviction not to testify or allow her daughter to testify. Although Mrs. Baughman made this clear to the prosecuting attorney, he firmly believed that both would ultimately do so, if necessary, and, therefore, he issued no subpoenas until he grew leery some few days prior to trial.

The hearing officer found that during the early phases of preparing a defense strategy, Mrs. Baughman sought to learn the outcome and effect on the trial if the daughter was unavailable to testify. According to the respondent, Mrs. Baughman asked him what would happen if the daughter attended the trial but failed to testify. Mrs. Baughman testified that, although she does not remember asking the question, she may have asked something like "does the wife have to testify against her husband?" In response to this sort of inquiry, the Respondent discussed relevant case law with the Baughmans and provided them with copies of two cases, Watkins v. State (1983), Ind., 446 N.E.2d 949 and Laswell v. State (1986), Ind., 494 N.E.2d 981. Respondent testified that his purpose in providing the cases was to demonstrate to the Baughmans that statements given to the police by Mrs. Baughman and the daughter were pretty much "set in stone." The two cases follow the Patterson 2 exception to the hearsay rule which provides that a prior statement of a witness is admissible, not only for the purposes of impeachment, but also as substantive evidence provided the statement is admitted and the witness is present at trial for cross-examination.

On January 30, 1987, at the last scheduled pretrial conference, the respondent urged his client to accept a plea agreement, but Baughman rejected the proposal.

Trial was set for Monday, February 16, 1987. On the previous Friday, February 13, 1987, the sheriff attempted to serve Mrs. Baughman and her daughter with subpoenas at their residence and was advised by Larry Baughman that they were gone. Neither Mrs. Baughman nor her daughter appeared at the scheduled trial, and the prosecution sought a continuance.

The testimony as to what transpired after the rejection of the plea is conflicting and hotly contested. Mrs. Baughman testified that the respondent advised her to leave the state, go as far as she could, and that he did not want to know where. It was his assessment, that without her and her daughter's testimony, the case would have to be dismissed. Larry Baughman corroborated this testimony. Respondent's secretary, Janis Sims, also testified that she overheard respondent's telephone conversation with Mrs. Baughman, within two weeks of the trial, during which he advised Mrs. Baughman to take her daughter out of school and leave so that she could not be served with a subpoena and would not be under a court order to appear. Respondent denied these accusations and insisted that he advised Mrs. Baughman not to leave, but if she did, she was to call the judge and let him know she would not appear at the trial.

The hearing officer found that shortly after the rejection of the proposed plea agreement, Mrs. Baughman made it clear that she was leaving the family residence with her daughter and would avoid any service of subpoenas. She was told by respondent that if she intended to do so, it would be best to leave the state and that she should call the judge on the day of trial and advise him that she would not testify or permit the daughter to do so. Respondent also told her that he did not want to know their destination.

Mrs. Baughman and her daughter in fact went to Marshall County where they stayed with friends. They...

To continue reading

Request your trial
18 cases
  • Phico Ins. Co. v. Aetna Cas. and Sur. Co., IP 96-1899-C-T/G.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • March 28, 2000
    ...and circumstances resulting in prejudice to the adverse party." In re Siegel, 708 N.E.2d 869, 871 (Ind.1999); see also In re Geisler, 614 N.E.2d 939, 940 (Ind.1993); In re Paternity of K.H., 709 N.E.2d 1033, 1036 PHICO contends that laches involves questions of fact and therefore should not......
  • Long v. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tenn.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • June 4, 2014 Ponds, 888 A.2d 234, 240–44 (D.C.2005) (discussing delay as a mitigating factor in setting the appropriate sanction); In re Geisler, 614 N.E.2d 939, 940 (Ind.1993) (collecting cases and finding no occasion to determine whether laches applies in attorney disciplinary cases); In re Matney,......
  • People v. Olson, Case Number: 15PDJ062 consolidated with 16PDJ007
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 25, 2016 ethical violation when a defense lawyer suggested to a treating physician that he not testify for the plaintiffs); In re Geisler , 614 N.E.2d 939, 942–43 (Ind. 1993) (finding that a lawyer obstructed a prosecutor's access to evidence by helping a witness become unavailable for service an......
  • Town Council of New Harmony v. Parker, 87S01-9911-CV-673.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • April 18, 2000
    ...waiver from knowing acquiescence in existing conditions, and circumstances resulting in prejudice to the adverse party. In re Geisler, 614 N.E.2d 939, 940 (Ind.1993). The mere passage of time is insufficient to establish laches, rather, it must be shown that the delay was unreasonable. Habi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT