A Carmel defense attorney suspended by the Supreme Court said she has done all she can to finish her cases despite battling a "serious and continuing illness."
"In my 20 years as an attorney, I received no discipline," wrote defense attorney Sarah Nagy in an email to RTV6. "I was a zealous advocate."
As Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported Tuesday, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended Nagy for disability, not paying her attorney registration fees or complying with her continuing legal education.
"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."
Nagy, the former executive director of the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission, cannot practice law in the state.
But Nagy can apply for reinstatement if she is no longer disabled, which is upsetting to some of her clients who say they paid her money, but their cases are still unresolved years later.
"She doesn't answer emails or phone calls and she's failed to appear in court," said Grace Moore, who says 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 2011 and had been unable to complete legal work for her clients since spring 2011.
But some clients of Nagy's told RTV6 they had problems with her 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 says she paid the attorney $25,000 to handle her son Mark's post-conviction relief case. "We trusted her."
Nagy told RTV6 she has done a lot for Lott and Moore.
"I completed exhaustive investigations in both of those cases and drafted post-conviction petitions," said Nagy via email. "I also met at the prisons several times with both clients."
RTV6 looked at Mark Lott's court file, and found Nagy filed a notice of appearance in 2006, but filed little else other than changes of address.
"We're just left in limbo," said Lott. "I hired her to do a service and she didn't."
Clients RTV6 spoke with said they want Nagy to return their money and files so they can move on with their cases and hire another attorney.
"She's put people's lives hold," said Lott.
The professional rules of conduct for attorneys says 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 can not move forward."
Nagy told RTV6 she is working with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program to help find an attorney to take over her cases.
"The client files must be transmitted directly to the former clients, or to the replacement counsel, not to the mothers of former clients," said Nagy via email. "JLAP is assisting me in this process."
JLAP Executive Director Terry Harrell could not confirm or deny Nagy had been in touch with them.
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.
But Nagy is not facing any criminal charges.
"She is not in compliance with the professional rules of conduct," said Indiana Supreme Court Spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan.
Dolan told RTV6 that even though Nagy can eventually apply for reinstatement, it's a rigorous process.
"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."
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 Indiana State Bar Association offers a financial assistance fund, and some of Nagy's clients told RTV6 they're applying for relief.
Nagy declined to meet with RTV6 or go on camera.
More Information: Sarah L. Nagy Suspension Order