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Matter of Kevin L. Scionti

630 N.E.2d 1358 (1994)

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Matter of Kevin L. Scionti

Indiana Supreme Court

630 N.E.2d 1358 (1994)

Facts

When Gary and Annette Smoot divorced, the court granted Annette full custody of their minor son and Gary visitation. About six months later, a county prosecutor charged Annette with molesting their son, but the custody order remained unchanged. Some nine months later, Gary retained Kevin Scionti (respondent), a licensed attorney with several years’ experience in private practice, to challenge the custody order. Another attorney, Donald Dunnuck, continued representing Gary along with Scionti. Dunnuck and Scionti advised Gary to pick up his son as scheduled for visitation and not return him. The next day, the judge signed an ex parte order directing Gary to immediately return the child to Annette. Scionti requested removal of the order and emergency custody, but the judge denied both requests. The next day, the county prosecutor charged Annette with intimidation and obstruction of justice, based on allegations she had struck her son and coached him not to testify against her. Scionti and Dunnuck continued advising Gary to keep the child until 10 days later, when the judge held a contempt hearing. Scionti conceded he had advised Gary to violate a court order because they expected new charges would be filed against Annette and thought the court should know about them before Gary returned his son. Scionti knew the judge denied the requests to remove the order and for emergency custody but nonetheless advised Gary to stay in hiding with his son until the court held a hearing. The judge found no justification for violating the orders, found Gary in contempt, and sentenced him to 90 days in jail. The prosecutor dropped all charges against Annette a few days after the hearing. A disciplinary complaint charged Scionti with violating the ethics rules that prohibit counseling clients to commit crimes and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Dissent (Shepard, C.J.)

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