Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fee Sharing And Other Misconduct Draws Indefinite Suspension

From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court of Ohio today indefinitely  suspended the law license of Cleveland attorney Gary Ray Axner for neglect of  five separate legal matters, failure to reasonably communicate with some of  those clients,  employment of a suspended  attorney without notifying the proper authorities of that relationship,  and initially failing  to cooperate with the investigation of his  misconduct.

In a 7-0 per curiam decision, the court  adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline  that in two bankruptcy cases, Axner accepted fee advances from clients and then  completely neglected or failed to complete the necessary legal work to obtain a  bankruptcy decree for 17 months in one case and more than three years in the  other.  In both instances, the court  found that Axner repeatedly ignored or evaded client inquiries about the status  of their cases, and when the clients were able to reach him, made false and  misleading statements to them indicating that resolution of their cases was  imminent.

The court also adopted board findings  that Axner engaged in an ongoing course of misconduct by employing Howard  Schuman, a former attorney whose license was suspended in 1998 and has never  been reinstated,  for 14 years without  disclosing that relationship to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel as required  by state bar governance rules. The court also found that, on multiple occasions,  Axner improperly shared fees with Schuman despite his status as a non-attorney,  and allowed Schuman to meet independently  with  clients and their creditors in  Axner’s place in violation of administrative orders and local court rules.

In imposing an indefinite license  suspension as the appropriate sanction for these and other rule violations, the  court noted the mitigating factor that Axner has no prior record of  disciplinary infractions and the aggravating factors that he engaged in a  pattern of misconduct involving multiple rule violations, acted with a selfish  motive, and took advantage of vulnerable clients.

As a precondition for applying for reinstatement of  his license after Feb. 14, 2015, Axner must demonstrate that he has entered  into and fully complied with a substance abuse contract with the Ohio Lawyers  Assistance Program.

The opinion is linked here.  (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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