Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bigamy Suspension

From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court of Ohio today imposed a six month suspension against the law license of [a]Youngstown attorney...for falsely stating on a North Carolina marriage license application that he had never been married before, and entering into a bigamous second marriage in that state before a divorce from his first wife in Ohio had been finalized.

In a 7-0 per curiam opinion, the Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that [his] actions violated the state attorney discipline rule that prohibits conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation. The Court also found that by engaging in his current misconduct, [he] violated the terms of a previous one-year suspension for unrelated rule violations that was stayed on the condition that he not reoffend.

Accordingly, in today‚Äôs order the Court reinstated [his] stayed one-year suspension and ordered that the new six-month suspension be served concurrently.

The opinion is linked here. The respondent was a "seasoned criminal defense attorney" who married in August 2001 and separated in September 2005. Dissolution proceedings were initiated but dismissed. He arranged to be married in 2007 and expected his divorce to be finalized. It was not, but he "nevertheless married again." The first wife notified authorities of the bigamous marriage and also filed a bar grievance. Criminal charges were not prosecuted, the first divorce became final and he legally married his second wife. The board and court accepted his admission that the conduct constituted an ethical violation.

The court:

Instances of bigamy are rare....Respondent's situation is different [from a prior case where, among other things, the attorney abandoned his first wife and four children]...respondent the process of ending his first marriage. Upon learning of respondent's pending nuptials, his first wife had rejected a final settlement at the last minute and asked for more money. Though he knew of this development, respondent admittedly exercised poor judgment by deciding to go ahead with the wedding. Within days after his illegal marriage, respondent notified the wedding official and encouraged the official to cooperate with law enforcement.

The attorney also had a record of prior discipline. The stayed sanction of that case was reinstated along with a concurrent six-month suspension imposed for this misconduct. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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