Friday, July 8, 2011
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court :
The Supreme Court of Ohio today suspended the law license of [a] Cincinnati attorney...for one year, with six months of that term stayed on conditions.
In a 7-0 per curiam opinion, the Court affirmed findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that [the attorney] violated state attorney discipline rules when he failed to maintain client funds in a separate, interest-bearing account, failed to maintain adequate records of client funds in his possession, comingled [sic] client funds with his own, and failed to notify clients that he did not carry malpractice insurance. The Court, however, differed from the board’s recommended sanction of staying the entire 12-month suspension.
The Court acknowledged [his] “extensive work with the poor,” but referred to his “banking irregularities” as one example of his “deceptive course of conduct that spanned more than five years.”
“The National City Bank account that respondent used is registered to ‘ABC Company,’ a non-profit entity that he had formed. The checks that he issued from that account, however, were deceptive, because they did not identify ABC Company as the owner of the account. Instead, they bore respondent’s name followed by ‘Attorney at Law,’ and ‘IOLTA,’ giving the false impression that the checks were drawn on his client trust account.”
It was on this basis that the Court went beyond the board’s recommended sanction and imposed a one-year suspension with only six months stayed.
The attorney had admitted that he had used the ABC account to avoid IRS seizure for unpaid tax obligations. His good works did not negate the deceit:
We acknowledge respondent’s extensive work with the poor,
including his full-time volunteer work with the public defender’s office after he
graduated from law school, the investment of his inherited wealth in the
rehabilitation of buildings and social service agencies in the inner-city
neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine, and his dedication to the poor and
disadvantaged people of that area. These good works, however, do not excuse
respondent’s complete disregard of the Rules of Professional Conduct requiring
attorneys to maintain client funds separate from their own and to maintain
detailed records of all funds received on behalf of a client. Nor do they
compensate for his deceptive course of conduct that spanned more than five years.
The court's opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)