Wednesday, December 12, 2012
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court of Ohio has permanently revoked the law license of Cincinnati attorney Robert Leon Schwartz for misconduct that resulted in his convictions on felony counts of mail fraud and filing a false income tax return. Schwartz, whose law license has been under an interim suspension since the court was informed of his June 2010 felony convictions, was sentenced to a four-year term in federal prison.
In a 6-0 per curiam opinion announced today, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Schwartz admitted using the U.S. mail in a scheme to defraud Hadassah Hospital of more than $2.4 million from a bequest the hospital was supposed to receive from the estate of a deceased client of Schwartz’s, Beverly Hersh. Prior to her death in 2005, Hersh named Schwartz administrator of her estate, which included assets of more than $12 million, and appointed him as trustee of two trusts funded by the estate from which Schwartz was to make contributions to tax-exempt charitable organizations and deserving individuals.
By 2008, Schwartz had distributed over $9 million from the discretionary trust over which he had complete control, which was significantly more than the percentage of Hersh’s estate allocated to that trust, but had distributed less than $50,000 to recognized charities from the charitable trust and only $210,000 of the $2.6 million bequest Hersh had left to Hadassah Hospital.
Schwartz also admitted filing a false federal income tax return for 2007 in which he failed to report income of more than $800,000, consisting of money he had disbursed to himself from the Hersh trust funds, money he diverted from the trust funds to pay for the care of his mother, and income from other legal fees.
The court agreed with the board’s conclusions that Schwartz’s actions violated the state disciplinary rules that prohibit an attorney from engaging in illegal conduct that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty or trustworthiness, engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; and engaging in conduct that reflects adversely on an attorney’s fitness to practice law.
In imposing the board’s recommended sanction of permanent disbarment, the court rejected Schwartz’s arguments in favor of a less severe penalty. The court noted that, in addition to misappropriating funds and filing a false tax return, Schwartz violated the trust of his client by failing to carry out her instructions to distribute much of her estate to charitable causes, and violated the right of Hadassah Hospital to promptly enjoy the benefit of the bequest Hersh intended it to receive.
The court’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Robert R. Cupp. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy did not participate in the court’s deliberations or decision in the case.
Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion released by the court, but only for those cases considered noteworthy or of great public interest. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions from 1992 to the present are available online from the Reporter of Decisions. In the Full Text search box, enter the eight-digit case number at the top of this summary and click "Submit."
2012-0644. Disciplinary Counsel v. Schwartz, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-5850.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 11-008. Robert Leon Schwartz, Attorney Registration No. 0000818, is permanently disbarred from the practice of law in Ohio.
O’Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, O’Donnell, Lanzinger, and Cupp, JJ., concur.
Kennedy, J., not participating.
The link to oral arguments in bar discipline cases provides a great educational tool.
I showed an argument in a misappropriation case before the Illinois Supreme Court to my Advanced Legal Ethics class. The attorney's (actually quite competent) pro se argument was particularly interesting. The class was struck by the fact that the disciplined lawyer looked and sounded like you or me.
The case is In re Mark Mulroe and the decision is linked here. (Mike Frisch)