August 14, 2008
Clearly Excessive Fee Leads To Suspension
In a 5-2 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended an attorney for one year with six months stayed on probation in a case where the attorney had consulted with two business partners for two hours and thereafter pressed for payment of a $5,000 fee. The attorney filed a lawsuit seeking that amount that settled for $300. He also was found to have attempted to bully and intimidate the bar prosecutor. The court concluded that the lawyer had charged a clearly excessive fee, noting that his hourly rate was $150. The lawyer's conduct involved a profane call to one of the partners. However, both the majority and dissent agree that there was insufficient evidence of mental health issues to warrant consideration. One practice note: lawyer does not need to collect the fee in order to violate the rule.
The dissent concludes that the matter involved a miscommunication regarding fees and would stay the suspension in its entirety. The attorney had no prior brushes with the disciplinary system in 28 years of practice. (Mike Frisch)
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