ANDERSON — A local attorney has been disciplined by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.
Cody P. Cogswell, a public defender and defense attorney in Anderson, violated several Indiana Professional Code Rules of conduct, according to the commission.
“As far as the mistakes made, I absolutely own up to it,” said Cogswell.
The violations include failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter; failure to comply promptly with a client’s reasonable requests for information; failure to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions; knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal; and failure to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of a non-lawyer employee over whom the lawyer has direct supervisory authority is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.
Cogswell grew up in Anderson and was privately hired to defend Dylan Tate in Tate’s murder trial of 18-month-old Harlan Haines. Tate was found guilty of killing the toddler.
The court suspended Cogswell from practicing law for a period of 60 days on April 7, but as long as he completes a 12-month probation period, pays fees associated with the hearing and completes other terms of the order, the suspension is “stayed,” meaning it will not go into effect. The discipline, however, will remain on Cogswell’s record.
John Higgins, an Indianapolis attorney representing Cogswell in the disciplinary hearing, said this is the first complaint his client has ever had in his career.
“Generally, what the two complaints allege was that he dropped the ball in terms of meeting a deadline for two clients,” said Higgins. “Cody had a person in his office who was a paralegal who made a statement to one of these clients that was untrue. The statement was that a case was filed when it was not filed.”
Higgins said as soon as Cogswell found out, he took action and terminated the person.
The disciplinary commission was informed of the termination and Higgins said Cogswell was transparent about what had happened.
“But at the end of the day, the buck really does stop with him and he accepted that,” said Higgins. “He admitted to the entire allegations and then committed to reforming his law practice and taking a number of steps to make sure that nothing like this fell through the cracks again.”
According to the disciplinary commission, one of the cases involved a divorce case and Cogswell’s handling of paperwork involving the couple’s property agreement. The second complaint was from a second client involving a workplace sexual harassment matter. The client was issued a Notice of Right to Sue, but federal laws require a lawsuit to be filed within 90 days of the notice and statute of limitations were also present.
The lawsuit was not filed within the above requirements and the client’s case was dismissed.
Cogswell paid the client $15,000 in damages through his malpractice insurance carrier.
“I am aware of the disciplinary commission’s action regarding Cody,” said Madison County Chief Public Defender Bryan Williams. “The Madison County Public Defender Board will be meeting as soon as possible to determine if the board will take any further action against him as it pertains to his status as a public defender.
“We obviously want the best possible representation for indigent criminal defendants in our county,” he added.
Higgins said the public defender board is free to take whatever action its members deem appropriate.
“That being said, there is clearly no risk to any client, including indigent clients,” he said.