Attorney jailed on contempt charge

Goshen attorney Joe Lehman spent a night in jail for contempt of court late last month.

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — A local attorney and repeated candidate for political offices spent a night in jail last month for contempt of court.

Joseph C. Lehman, 62, was jailed on the afternoon of March 26 and was released from the jail the following day, according to Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department records.

Lehman’s jailing came after he was cited for contempt of court for a case that’s been in Elkhart Superior Court 2 since 1994, according to court personnel.

According to Judge Evan Roberts, who’s serving as a special judge in the case, Lehman has a history of problems in the case.

“Mr. Lehman missed a couple of hearings and I found him in direct contempt,” Roberts said. “I fined him the first time, then he missed a follow-on hearing and I issued an order finding him in direct contempt the second time,” the judge said.

Roberts ordered Lehman to spend three nights in jail unless he paid $2,100 in fees to the attorney on the other side of the matter, who drove to Elkhart from Michigan City to attend the hearing, Roberts said. Paying those attorney’s fees dropped Lehman’s jail stay to only one day.

Though details of the paternity case are confidential under state law, “There had been a history of repeated failures to appear by attorney Lehman,” the judge said.

The opposing attorney, Alan Sirinak, said, “It’s a very frustrating thing and the fact that I live an hour and 15 minutes away ... there still needs to be a professionalism between lawyers.”

Sirinak said he was glad Roberts stood up for that idea. “I was kind of happy to see the judge say, ‘You need to be professional.’”

Lehman planned to run this year for a seat in the Indiana Senate but decided to back out. He’s previously unsuccessfully run for judicial posts in Goshen City Court and in the county.

In 2009 he upset former clients by throwing confidential case files into a trash container belonging to a nearby business when he moved his law office.

Lehman’s law license remains in good standing with no past or pending discipline, according to the Indiana Supreme Court Roll of Attorneys.

He’s also run afoul of at least one other Elkhart County judge by letting his cellular telephone ring and even taking calls in the courtroom while court is in session.

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