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Attorney Joseph M. Johnson III Suspended for Harassment
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harassing attorney

Summary: Indiana attorney Joseph M. Johnson III was suspended from practicing law for at least one year after repeatedly harassing an ex-girlfriend.

A public defender from northern Indiana accused of repeatedly harassing an ex-girlfriend was suspended by the Indiana Bar Association. Joseph M. Johnson III will not be allowed to practice law for at least one year.


Johnson, married, was the chief public defender for Adams County. He began an affair with “Jane Doe” seven years ago but it ended after several months. The two met for dinner once again in March of 2014. During the dinner, Johnson claimed to Doe that his wife was leaving him. After the dinner, he repeatedly called her but she kept telling him she was not interested in a relationship. He did not care or listen and kept calling her. During one call to Doe, Johnson was crying and a gun could be heard shooting several rounds off.

He continued calling, texting and Facebook messaging her, even showing up at her apartment. A No Trespass Order was issued by the police against Johnson but it did not stop him. He still called her and even started reaching out to her roommate to get in contact with her. When police intervened again, warning Johnson to stop all efforts of communication with her, he threatened to have her children taken away and use her probation officer to get her in more trouble.

Joseph M. Johnson III

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Once he appeared at her apartment when her children were present, Doe was able to get a protective order against him. He fired back by going to her probation officer and saying she had violated her probation. This was actually true because she had a glass of wine at the dinner she had with Johnson before and her probation for operating while intoxicated prohibited her from drinking. She was given a ten-day sentence.

Eventaully the Indiana State Police were brought into the case. He was found guilty of one count of trespass and placed on informal probation. He was ordered to never contact Doe but he saw one of her friends at the courthouse and lured her into his office to quiz the friend about Doe’s living and romantic situations. He used any new information to track her down at her new residence, driving to the location on multiple occasions in May 2015.

The hearing officer in his case told the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission that he suffered from a progression of mental illness involving depression, manic episodes and bipolar disorder. He argued that since he suffered from mental illness, any sanctions imposed by the Indiana Supreme Court would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The court replied, “We agree with the hearing officer that, while some of the Respondent’s actions can be traced to manic episodes he was experiencing, other actions committed by Responded as part of his long-running pattern of misconduct involving J.D. occurred during periods when Respondent was receiving treatment and the symptoms of his mental illness had somewhat abated.”

Johnson was accused of breaking the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct part b, d, and e. The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with the charges and suspended his license for at least one year without automatic reinstatement to start June 28.

Do you think mental illness is a valid excuse for misconduct? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys with harassment problems, read these articles:


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