Carmel attorney speaks after $50,000 allocated to former clients

Sarah Nagy says she wasn't dishonest with clients

CARMEL, Ind. - A Carmel defense attorney is defending herself after the Indiana State Bar Association allocated $50,000 to 19 of her former clients.

Sarah Nagy is currently suspended by the Supreme Court for not paying her attorney registration fees, not complying with her continuing legal education, as well as disability.

Nagy responded to Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney via email and said she has been sick with Lupus complications.

"At no time did I act in any dishonest manner with a client," read Nagy's email to Kenney. "I got sick and when I realized that my illness would impair my ability to practice law, I began working with JLAP (Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program) in early May, 2011.  I also informed the clients of my health status and of my efforts to get them replacement counsel, which I did in fact do."

Clients RTV6 spoke with said they paid Nagy money, sometimes up to $25,000, but the clients said their cases are still unresolved years later.

The clients filed claims for relief with the Indiana State Bar Association Clients Financial Assistance, which allocated $50,000 to Nagy’s clients, which is the maximum amount allowed per single attorney.

ISBA members voluntarily contribute $2 of their annual membership dues to the fund each year.

"We felt Sarah took retainers from these clients knowing or should have known she wasn't going to discharge the work," said Dustin DeNeal, chair of the Indiana State Bar Association Clients Financial Assistance Fund. "That was the dishonesty." 

Nagy told RTV6 she was never dishonest with her clients.

"I did not have a crystal ball. I envisioned getting well and returning to work. This did not happen," wrote Nagy.

Nagy also raised concerns that she was not given an adequate chance to participate in the ISBA process involving her clients.

"I did speak briefly last year with an attorney on the committee who discussed only 3 cases with me, two of which she stated had no merit.  She did not advise me of 19 pending matters or that there was any inquiry whatsoever into my integrity," wrote Nagy. "I had only 12 open cases at the time I applied for disability, and most, if not all work had been completed per the scope of the written client agreements. I also ensured, with the assistance of JLAP, that each client was given the option of accepting replacement counsel, per the written client agreements that I had, which allowed for me to assign other attorneys to cases."

DeNeal said Nagy was given a chance to participate in the process.

"One of our investigators conducted a telephone interview with Ms. Nagy to discuss certain of the filed claims and Ms. Nagy's position," wrote DeNeal in an email to RTV6. "We also interviewed Ms. Nagy's paralegal, reviewed court dockets and documents, and documents submitted by the claimants themselves. Please keep in mind that our committee does not decide claims against individual attorneys.  We only decide whether the claimants have a claim under our bylaws to a distribution from the fund."

Nagy, the former executive director of the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission, cannot currently practice law in the state, but in the future, Nagy can apply for reinstatement.

Nagy told Kenney she does not plan to practice law again.

"I will share that I have no intention of seeking reinstatement," wrote Nagy. "Lupus is an insidious disease which will always be with me, and which has made it impossible for me to envision a healthy life as an attorney, ever again."

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