May 29, 2009
Overwhelming Life Circumstances Lead To Misconduct
In a bar discipline case decided yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court determined to impose indefinite suspension rather than disbarment for a host of ethical violations in multiple matters including misappropriation of client funds. The court pointed to a number of mitigating factors that helped explain, if not excuse, the misconduct. The attorney has now been in treatment for over two years for depression and posttraumatic stress disorder that in part relates to his military service in Vietnam. The treatment addresses issues that the lawyer had been unable to confront:
including his involvement in a motor vehicle accident while in the service that caused his best friend's death, his severe injury from being stabbed while a soldier, the death of his infant child, and more recently the deaths of his wife and then of a girlfriend. [His treating physician] explained in detail the overwhelming effects of these events and how in later years those effects caused [his] lethargy, lack of motivation, and inability to complete tasks.
The lawyer has shown serious remorse for his actions and is likely to face criminal charges. He also has a record of fine pro bono work. He also has worked with the Ohio lawyer assistance program, which had advocated on his behalf for a sanction less than disbarment. (Mike Frisch)
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