Legal Ethics

Lawyer Who Picked Up Client's Kids at School, Drove Them Around Aimlessly, Gets 6-Month Suspension

An Indiana lawyer has been suspended for six months and will have to apply for reinstatement following a December 2008 incident in which she frightened the mother of two children by picking them up at their elementary school on behalf of their father, her client in a matrimonial case.

Although Cecelia M. K. Hemphill wanted to talk to the children because she was concerned that they might have been mistreated, there were better ways to accomplish this purpose within the usual structure provided by the legal system, says the Indiana Supreme Court in its Wednesday order (PDF).

Meanwhile, as the mother of the two children, aged 10 and 8, worried about their whereabouts, since she did not know what was happening and the county sheriff had been brought into the situation by the school, Hemphill took them to dinner with their father and then drove them around for hours. She looked for a birthday party to which one child had been invited, but couldn’t find it based on the youngster’s directions, the order recounts, and her cell phone had died and she was low on gas. Around 8:45 p.m. she returned them to the mother’s home.

“Respondent lacks any insight into why her conduct was wrong, maintaining that she did the right thing because she was serving a higher purpose of protecting the safety of the children,” the supreme court says in the order. “Convincing evidence was presented that this incident was not an isolated lapse. We therefore conclude that respondent should be suspended without automatic reinstatement.”

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog.

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