Friday, April 30, 2010

Attorney's Drug Use Places Clients At Risk

The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports:

The law license of [a] Cleveland attorney...has been suspended for two years, with the final 18 months of that term stayed on conditions, for professional misconduct arising from his admitted use of illegal drugs, culminating in a 2007 arrest for possession of crack cocaine and resisting arrest.

The Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that [his] occasional use of marijuana since adolescence and intermittent use of cocaine between 2004 and 2007 violated the state attorney discipline rules that prohibit engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that adversely reflects on an attorney’s fitness to practice law.

In its 6-0 per curiam opinion, the Court acknowledged  that [he] had completed an intervention program that resulted in the dismissal of the criminal charges against him, and had voluntarily participated in 12-step sobriety program for a year after his arrest, but had since abandoned that program as inappropriate and continued to assert that his former drug use had never endangered the interests of his clients and that the consequences of his conduct, including termination from his former law firm, were unfairly severe compared to the treatment of other attorneys who engaged in similar conduct. In light of those findings, and a psychological evaluation suggesting the need for continuing oversight of [his] conduct, the Court rejected the disciplinary board’s recommendation of a fully stayed license suspension and instead imposed a two-year suspension with the final 18 months stayed.

The court's opinion notes:

Respondent claimed that he was never impaired while working and that his drug use did not interfere with the representation of his clients. But his admitted use of marijuana and purchase of crack cocaine just days before he filed an important motion demonstrate that his conduct did place his clients at risk. Respondent criticized his former employer for notifying his clients of his arrest and implied that his conduct was not serious enough to warrant the subsequent termination of his employment. Instead, he attributed his firing to a personality clash with a majority partner and the firm's desire to retain his share of the fees for two very lucrative cases.

The attorney separated from the Bar's counseling program "under less than amicable circumstances." (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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