April 21, 2009
Intent Finding Key To Sanction Determination
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court of Ohio today suspended the law license of Hinckley attorney Kenneth L. Lewis for one year for forging the signature of a judge on a draft judgment entry granting his client occupational driving privileges when the court had rejected the proffered entry as not in compliance with local rules.
In a 5-2 per curiam decision, the Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Lewis had engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and illegal conduct adversely reflecting on a lawyer’s honesty or trustworthiness.
In setting the sanction for Lewis’ misconduct, five members of the Court deferred to the opinion of the disciplinary panel that heard testimony in the case and rejected as “simply not believable” Lewis’ explanation that he had signed the judge’s name on the rejected entry to show his client “what an approved occupational driving entry would look like” and then let the client keep the forged document.
The majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Maureen O’Connor, Terrence O’Donnell and Robert R. Cupp.
Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton entered a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, stating that she would impose a stayed license suspension rather than an actual suspension based on her view that Lewis’ conduct after he signed the judge’s name on the entry, including scheduling subsequent hearing dates to pursue occupational driving privileges for the same client, was consistent with his claim that he never intended or attempted to pass off the forged entry as genuine.
The court's decision is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
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