February 24, 2011
Lawyer Guardian Suspended
The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports:
The Supreme Court of Ohio has suspended the license of [a] Cleveland attorney...for two years, with the final 18 months of that term stayed on conditions, for mishandling and misappropriating funds belonging to an incompetent ward and failing to properly supervise her employees resulting in the filing of a false guardian account and forged affidavit.
The Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that after being appointed successor guardian for an incompetent person by the Cuyahoga County Probate Court, and deducting her court-approved fees, [the attorney] held $16,972 of the ward’s remaining assets in her law office trust account. As part of stipulations by the parties in the case, [the attorney] admitted that over an ensuing six month period she wrote 25 checks payable to herself from the trust account that completely exhausted the client’s funds.
While [the attorney] subsequently restored the full amount of the ward’s funds to her trust account and made an additional deposit of $2,000 as compensation for interest that would have accrued on those funds, the Court agreed with the board’s conclusion that [her] conduct violated, among others, the state disciplinary rules that require an attorney to hold property of clients in a dedicated account separate from the lawyer’s own property, and that prohibit an attorney from engaging in conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation and conduct that adversely reflects on an attorney’s fitness to practice.
In staying the final 18 months of the suspension, the Court specified that [she] must be monitored by another attorney during that period, remain in compliance with an alcohol and mental health recovery contract with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program, and complete extra continuing legal education course work in law office management.
The court's opinion is linked here. The sanction determination was influenced by evidence that depression had contributed significantly to the misconduct. (Mike Frisch)
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