June 2022 Millar’s JurisDiction - A Picture’s Worth

by Richard W. Millar, Jr.

It has long been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” There seems to be some dispute as to who first said it, but whatever its provenance, its metaphorical truth has caused the phrase to endure.

Of course, not all pictures have intrinsic value. We live in a current culture, assuming that “culture” is the right word, where people compulsively take and share pictures on social media assuming, apparently, that the pictures have some interest to others. Food, for reasons beyond my ken, seems a favorite subject.

And then there are those, like the eponymously named Anthony Weiner, who share pictures of certain of their nether regions and then seem surprised when those photos unexpectedly surface.

Which is what happened in Indiana.

A self-represented woman, whose identity has not been disclosed, filed a petition for a protective order against a man who also has not been publicly identified, but who was allegedly harassing her. Fortunately, for my purposes, their names are irrelevant. But, unfortunately, her pictures are not.

It seems that during their relationship when things were going well, she had sent the man (and I’m deliberately not using the word “gentleman” here) several 8” by 10” color copies of “intimate” photographs of herself. The man kept the pictures.

The man hired Indiana attorney Allen R. Stout to defend him in the harassment proceedings. She, however, continued to represent herself.

During her deposition by Mr. Stout, he displayed several of these photos face up on the conference table for all to see and asked her: “Why do women who seek the aid of the court send these kinds of pictures to men?”

He followed that up by asking her if she still wanted to pursue the protective order when there might be a “‘better way’ to handle things than for her to be ‘drug through’ and ‘exposed’ in the court.”

She replied, reasonably, that all she really wanted was the man to stop harassing her.

Mr. Stout then ended the deposition and told her: “[t]he court reporter will transcribe this to final form, submit it to the court, it then becomes a public record. There’s a way to stop that, but otherwise, with the matter still pending, we’ll have to submit it to the court and attend a hearing, which will be a very public hearing as well.”

Not surprisingly, given those warnings, she decided that the better part of valor was to dismiss the case.

Mr. Stout told the court reporter to go off the record and then helpfully instructed the woman how to file a dismissal. She did so immediately after leaving the deposition.

Mr. Stout “later bragged to an associate about having secured a dismissal by threatening to have the photographs become part of the record.”

Those discerning readers who notice my quotation marks are onto something. They are taken from the unanimous “Published Order Finding Misconduct and Imposing Discipline” recently filed by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The court found that Mr. Stout had knowingly made a false statement of fact to a third person while representing a client, and had engaged in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

It held that Mr. Stout’s “deception . . . was the part of an intentional and purposeful plan he devised to coerce and bully the petitioner into dismissing her case under threat of having her intimate photos exposed.”

Mr. Stout was ordered suspended for ninety days.

The pictures may not have been worth a thousand words, but they were worth at least ninety days.

Richard W. Millar, Jr. is Of Counsel with the firm of FSG Lawyers PC in Irvine. He can be reached at rmillar@fsglawyers.com.