April 5, 2011
Discovery Tactics Result In Suspension
The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports:
In a 7-0 decision announced today, the Supreme Court of Ohio suspended the law license of [a]Cleveland attorney...for 18 months, with the final 6 months stayed, for professional misconduct arising from his delay and obstruction of the discovery process in a divorce action and lack of candor while representing a different client in a legal malpractice case.
The Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that in the divorce action, [the attorney's] failure to comply with repeated discovery requests from the opposing party over a period of many months and his evasive tactics and testimony regarding the information sought through discovery violated the disciplinary rules that prohibit an attorney from unlawfully obstructing another party’s access to evidence, knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, and engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.
Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger agreed with the disciplinary board’s finding that [the attorney's] testimony under cross-examination by opposing counsel regarding what discovery documents had been provided and when “clearly demonstrated that he was intentionally attempting to ‘obfuscate and hinder the truth-seeking process.’”
“We have repeatedly held that the practice of law is ‘a learned profession grounded on integrity, respectability, and candor ...’” wrote Justice Lanzinger. “It is clear that these attributes were missing from respondent’s conduct: How difficult can it be to show that you sent discovery responses to opposing counsel? For more than a year, respondent confounded three attorneys in their search for discovery documents. His evasive and obstreperous conduct alone is clear and convincing evidence that he violated the rules of professional conduct. Discovery is a critical part of the litigation process, and it often takes up a majority of the time that lawyers spend in litigating a case. ... Respondent’s lack of diligence in responding to requests for discovery is the equivalent of obstructing discovery. Therefore, as determined by the board, there is clear and convincing evidence that respondent engaged in evasive conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
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