The Indiana Supreme Court placed the Howard County chief public defender on 18 months of professional probation after he was found to have violated ethical guidelines relating to funds management.
On June 28, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush signed off on an order approving statements and circumstances, as well as a conditional agreement for discipline with Howard County Chief Public Defender Steven Raquet. In this filing, the court, Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, and Raquet agreed to a stipulation of facts surrounding a failure to provide proper oversight over his attorney trust fund account. The court, as a result, hit Raquet with 18 months of professional probation.
The ordeal stemmed from a bookkeeper formerly employed by Raquet’s law firm. According to the agreed upon stipulation of facts in the case, three overdrafts of Raquet’s trust account were recorded in late 2017. An inquiry by the disciplinary commission led to the discovery that the Raquet’s bookkeeper, Kimberly Jackson, had made “multiple deposits into incorrect accounts.”
Raquet went on to hire a certified public accountant (CPA) to perform an audit, which revealed errors and theft committed by Jackson.
In early 2018, Jackson was charged with multiple felonies, including one count of theft and seven counts of forgery. She later pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft and one count of forgery. The audit also found Raquet had held earned funds in his trust account over a period of years totaling more than $5,000.
In addition to those circumstances, the court also took into account both aggravating and mitigating factors in deciding whether Raquet should be disciplined, according to the order.
In the order signed by Rush, it’s noted Raquet’s “prior discipline is a fact in aggravation. Facts in mitigation include [Raquet’s] cooperation, remorse, restitution, and undertaking of other remedial measures following discovery of the trust account mismanagement.”
The prior discipline was a reference to a 2007 30-day suspension from the practice of law incurred by Raquet that came as a result of a criminal charge of possession of child pornography. In that case, the commission concluded Raquet had watched child pornography on the internet. He was charged with a class A misdemeanor, and by admitting guilt and entering a pretrial diversion agreement, the criminal case was dismissed in 2005.
In the latest complaint with the Supreme Court, the parties involved agreed Raquet violated the following rules: failure to hold property of clients or third persons separate from lawyer’s own property, maintaining more than a nominal amount of attorney funds in a trust account, failure to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of a nonlawyer employee over whom the lawyer has direct supervisory authority is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer, failure to deposit all funds held in trust in accounts clearly identified as trust or escrow accounts, and failure to deposit all receipts into a trust account intact.
With those violations in place, the court agreed to suspend Raquet from the practice of law for 180 days, all stayed subject to the completion of 18 months of probation. During that period, Raquet must have all trust accounts monitored by a commission-approved CPA. That CPA will make quarterly reports to the commission.
He also must report to the commission, within 14 days, any failure to comply with the terms of his probation. If there’s a judicial finding of any violation of either the Admission or Discipline Rules, Professional Conduct Rules, or any criminal law, the probation would be revoked, and the 180-day stayed suspension would need to be actively served without automatic reinstatement.
Through his attorney, Margaret Christensen, Raquet provided the following statement, “Mr. Raquet takes his responsibility to safeguard his clients’ property seriously and regrets that his supervision of his former office assistant, Kimberly Jackson, allowed her to take advantage of him. Mr. Raquet accepts responsibility for Ms. Jackson’s actions as required by the attorney ethics rules.”