Kokomo attorney Bradley Hamilton is nowhere to be found, much to the consternation of his former clients, who have been showing up in court expecting his representation.
According to a petition filed last month by fellow Kokomo attorney Brent Dechert, Hamilton tried and failed to sell his law practice and moved to Australia.
At least that’s where Dechert said he had “cause to believe” Hamilton went, according to the court filing.
Hamilton’s law office was closed Tuesday, and his house in the Green Acres subdivision is empty and has a “for sale” sign out front. His Realtor declined to comment on Hamilton’s whereabouts, citing client confidentiality.
Howard Superior Court IV Judge George Hopkins appointed Dechert the attorney surrogate for all of Hamilton’s unresolved legal cases, giving Dechert access to Hamilton’s files, if they can be found.
Dechert, who didn’t return messages, is also charged with notifying Hamilton’s clients of the situation, filing requests for time extensions on their behalf, and taking possession of any trust accounts Hamilton might have left behind.
Hamilton, who held a longtime practice in Kokomo, hasn’t been seen in Kokomo since Sept. 27.
Several local attorneys said Hamilton expressed his intention to move permanently to Australia, but even Dechert, whose filing indicates some knowledge of Hamilton’s affairs, might not have known how many open cases Hamilton left behind.
In the court filing, Dechert indicated a willingness to close out some of Hamilton’s remaining cases but was under the impression there were just a few.
“It is now believed that Mr. Hamilton’s current case load may be more significant than previous(ly) believed,” Dechert said, adding he was also uncertain about the status of many cases Hamilton had described as “closed.”
Judges at the Howard County Courthouse began noticing a problem the Monday after Hamilton’s purported exit from the Kokomo environs.
Hopkins said he had several people show up for guardianship hearings that Monday, all expecting Hamilton’s representation. Their cases had to be continued.
Howard Superior Court 1 Judge William Menges said he’s seen at least four cases in the past two weeks where Hamilton’s clients — one of whom was incarcerated and expecting a decision on a plea deal — were left unrepresented in the courtroom. Menges said he released the individual pending a new court date.
“I expect complaints will be filed,” Hopkins said, when asked about the fallout from Hamilton’s disappearance.
As attorney surrogate, Dechert is empowered to make recommendations to Hamilton’s clients on replacement counsel and can also file notices, motions and pleadings in cases where court time limits are involved, and other legal counsel hasn’t been obtained.
Tuesday, Hamilton was still listed as “active and in good standing” on the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.
Officials at the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.