Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Utmost Importance

From the Ohio Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court of Ohio today suspended  the law license of Cleveland Heights attorney  James Alexander Jr. for one year, with the final six months of that term  stayed, for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In a 7-0 per curiam opinion, the court adopted findings by its  Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Alexander improperly  commingled his own funds with funds held for clients in his law office trust  account, used his trust account to pay personal and business expenses, and  allowed his wife to write checks against his trust account.

The board also found that Alexander improperly divided a  client’s fee with another attorney without the client’s written consent, violated  the disciplinary rules that require an attorney to keep accurate records of  client funds in his possession and reconcile his client trust account on a  monthly basis, and engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to  practice law.

In setting the sanction for this misconduct, the court noted  that maintaining a strict separation between an attorney’s own funds and funds  he holds in trust for clients is a matter “of the utmost importance,” and  wrote: “When we consider Alexander’s prolonged misuse of his (trust account),  his failure to keep adequate records of client funds in his possession, and his  improper fee splitting, we believe that respondent has displayed a general  disregard of the rules of professional conduct, which warrants an actual  suspension.”

As conditions for staying the final six months  of Alexander’s suspension, the court ordered that he must commit no further  misconduct, complete an extra six hours of continuing legal education  coursework in law office management and trust fund maintenance, complete one  year of probation that includes monitoring of his trust account by an attorney  appointed by disciplinary counsel, and pay restitution of $175 to PNC Bank.

The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2012/10/from-the-ohio-supreme-court-the-supreme-court-of-ohio-today-suspended-the-law-license-of-cleveland-heights-attorney-james-a.html

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bfae553ef017ee40e7495970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Utmost Importance:

Comments

Mike,
I think I have consistently seen higher punishment than that for such trust fund violations. The stern language here does not seem to fit a suspension that ends pretty soon by comparison to others. Am I missing something here or are we getting more forgiving of financial commingling?
Alan

Posted by: Alan Childress | Oct 11, 2012 6:00:31 AM

Post a comment