Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"An Overarching Breach"

From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

The law license of [a] Willoughby attorney...has been suspended for 18 months, with the final six months of that term stayed on conditions, for mishandling a decedent’s estate and committing other misconduct by disregarding his duty to exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of clients who were facing foreclosure on their homes.

The Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that [the attorney] neglected to secure trust assets that were part of the  estate of a client for whom he had been named executor, resulting in improper distribution of assets from the estate by his co-trustee without the permission of the probate court. 

The Court also found that [he] violated multiple provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct by entering into a business arrangement with a purported “foreclosure rescue” service in which [he] received fees directly from the service to “represent” its customers in mortgage foreclosure actions without meeting with the clients, determining their individual objectives or financial situations or exercising independent judgment to determine what legal action was in each client’s best interest.

The court noted a prior case involving an attorney who partnered with a nonattorney entity to represent foreclosure clients and stated:

That association presented the same ills as have respondent's alliances--insufficent attorney-client communication and case preparation, nonattorney promotion of the lawyer's legal services, the aiding of the unauthorized practice of law, and the sharing of legal fees. Together, these failings signal the surrender of an attorney's ability to exercise independent professional judgment on a client's behalf and manifest an overarching breach of the lawyer's duty of loyalty to the client.

The court's opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

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