CARMEL, Ind. - The Indiana State Bar Association is stepping in to help 19 clients who paid a Carmel defense attorney currently suspended by the Supreme Court.
As the Call 6 Investigators reported, Sarah Nagy was disciplined for not paying her attorney registration fees, not complying with her continuing legal education, as well as disability.
Clients RTV6 spoke with said they paid Nagy money, but their cases are still unresolved years later.
The Indiana State Bar Association Clients Financial Assistance has allocated $50,000 to 19 of Nagy’s clients, which is the maximum amount allowed per single attorney.
“ISBA members voluntarily contribute $2 of their annual membership dues to this fund each year,” said Carissa Long, public relations director for ISBA. “It is important for the public to note that this is not a government program, but rather, just a bunch of lawyers doing the right thing. There is no claim of right to money.”
Rita Schutte told RTV6 Tuesday she paid Nagy $15,000 to represent her brother, but has seen little action from Nagy.
Schutte received $4,000 from the Indiana State Bar Association.
“We had expected a little more than that,” said Schutte. “She’s ruined a lot of people’s personal lives.”
Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney was unable to reach Nagy this week via phone or email.
Nagy, the former executive director of the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission, cannot practice law in the state, but in the future, Nagy can apply for reinstatement.
Indiana Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan told RTV6 Tuesday Nagy has not yet applied for reinstatement and if she does, she would have to state she no longer has a disability.
"The Supreme Court ultimately has to approve the reinstatement of a suspended attorney," said Dolan. "Any outstanding disciplinary charges or history or allegations of misconduct must be addressed before an attorney is reinstated."
"She doesn't answer emails or phone calls, she's failed to appear in court," said Grace Moore, who said she hired Nagy in 2006 and paid her $25,000 to handle her son's post-conviction relief case. "It's very disheartening. It doesn't help my trust in attorneys at all."
Court records show Nagy told the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission she had been disabled with lupus complications since August 2010 and had been unable to complete legal work for her clients since spring 2011.
But some clients of Nagy's told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney they had problems with Nagy years before that.
"She got sick in 2010, but what about 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- what happened to those years?" said Patricia Lott, who hired Nagy in 2006 and said she paid the attorney $25,000 to handle her son Mark's post-conviction relief case. "We trusted her."
Lott, Moore and several other clients RTV6 spoke with have filed complaints against Nagy with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, an agency that investigates and prosecutes allegations of attorney misconduct.
Whether a complaint is under investigation is not public record.
"I really don't think the suspension is enough," said Moore. "I think she needs to be disbarred."
The Supreme Court can disbar an attorney, but it doesn't happen often, and when it does, it's often because the attorney committed a crime such as theft.
For example, attorney Douglas Patterson was disbarred on June 20 for theft of client funds.
Sarah Nagy is not facing any criminal charges.
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission receives roughly 1,500 complaints a year against attorneys, and roughly 40 percent are actionable, according to Dolan.
The professional rules of conduct for attorneys say upon termination of representation, "a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as... surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred."
"I would like to have my money back, I'd like to see her disbarred, and I want my files back," said Moore. "We cannot move forward."
Court records show Nagy said she had been in contact with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP) since May 2011 to help manage her remaining cases.
Last summer, Nagy told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney she is battling a serious illness.
“In my 20 years as an attorney, I received no discipline," wrote defense attorney Sarah Nagy in an email to RTV6 in July 2012. "I was a zealous advocate."
"I have done, and will continue to do, my level best to protect the interest of my former clients," wrote Nagy. "I completed all or substantially all of the work in any open case that I had. I had only a very small handful of open cases, which were primarily post-conviction cases, (which) if done properly, takes time, sometimes several years."