December 12, 2007
No Disbarment For Escrow Violations
A decision today of the Ohio Supreme Court shows a different approach to sanctioning escrow violations than that of the Maryland Court of Appeals as reflected in the prior post. For eight years, the attorney had operated his business and personal affairs out of his escrow account. The IRS had shut down his business account. He "repeatedly overdrew his escrow account" and "used clients' money for his own or business purposes." He also failed to pay a third-party medical provider.
The court considered as mitigation "good character and that he worked pro bono for his church" but further noted that he "showed little appreciation for why the rule against commingling exists." Also, "[his] bookkeeping records were not merely in disarray or incomplete--they simply did not exist." Rather than disbar (or stay the entire suspension, as the Board had proposed), the court suspended the attorney for one year with six months stayed. To obtain reinstatement, he must meet conditions that include a five-hour course in office management. If reinstated, the attorney must serve a one year probation.
Is a five-hour course sufficent to correct these practice deficiencies? (Mike Frisch)
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