February 16, 2010
The Maine Board of Bar Overseers imposed a stipulated public reprimand in a matter where the attorney belatedly filed an answer in a credit card matter, resulting in a default judgment against the client. After he "expended a fair amount of additional [uncharged] time" on related matters, "due to personal difficulties, [he] became unable to perform legal services for a period of time." As a result, the client suffered "real harm" in the form of wage garnishment.
The attorney had accepted responsibility, refunded fees and apologized to the client. To prevent future problems,
[he] has apparently instructed his wife how to access all information within his law practice. He has also created a computer-based client file list, including important dates and status descriptions of each case. Within that client list are the names and phone numbers of three local attorneys to which [his] wife can make any necessary referrals.
February 15, 2010
Restructuring Ohio Bar Discipline
An announcement from the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:
Ohio’s disciplinary system for lawyers and judges should be restructured to realize more consistency, uniformity and oversight, according to a report released today by a Supreme Court of Ohio task force.
The restructuring proposed by the task force would decrease the number of certified grievance committees from the current 33 to nine, and include those established by the Ohio State Bar Association and local bar associations in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Mahoning County, Stark County and Toledo. Most committees scheduled for decertification would have the opportunity to form a joint committee with one of the eight remaining local committees that operates in a contiguous county.
Appointed by Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer in March 2009, the 18-member Task Force to Review the Ohio Disciplinary System was charged with determining whether the system “provides the most effective and efficient means of investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating allegations of professional misconduct on the part of Ohio’s lawyers and judges.”
The Supreme Court will accept public comment on the task force recommendations until April. 16.
While acknowledging the system’s fairness and impartiality and the extensive involvement of competent professionals and dedicated volunteers, the report did note room for improvement. “The Task Force believes the current structure of the Ohio disciplinary system produces inconsistent results with regard to decisions to investigate misconduct allegations, the thoroughness of investigations, the adequacy of charging documents, and the quality of case presentations to the Board.”
Reasons for inconsistencies, according to the task force’s findings, include the high number of certified grievance committees, little oversight, an absence of uniform procedures and guidelines, and a varying level of experience with handling these types of cases depending on the workload of the committee.
Consequently, certified grievance committees in existence after Jan. 1, 2011, would operate under enhanced oversight by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. New requirements would include education and training, term limits, and certain administrative duties such as increasing the number of annual meetings and providing for full-time staff.
Under the proposed new structure, the process for reviewing and prosecuting professional misconduct allegations would be changed to include the development by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of uniform procedures governing the intake and investigation of grievances and preparing formal changes for presentation to the Board. In addition, bar counsel would become more involved in disciplinary decision-making and the Board would review probable cause procedures and recommend any needed changes to the Supreme Court.
This link should take you to the report and related documents. (Mike Frisch)