Monday, September 30, 2013

Ohio Nixes Sanctions Against Non-Admitted Attorney

A recent decision of the Ohio Supreme Court is summarized on the court's web page:

A Sandusky attorney not  admitted to the practice of law in Ohio but admitted to the practice of law in  the District of Columbia and federal bankruptcy courts in this state is not  subject to Ohio disciplinary rules, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today.

The unanimous decision,  authored by Justice Terrence O’Donnell, rejects the recommendation of the Board  of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline to indefinitely suspend Donald  Harris from representing Ohio citizens in the state of Ohio.

Donald Harris is not admitted to the practice of law in the state  of Ohio, but as a member of the District of Columbia bar and of the bars of the  United States District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio,  he practices bankruptcy law before federal courts geographically located in this  state.

In August 2011, disciplinary counsel filed a complaint against  Harris relating to his representation of an Ohio client in bankruptcy  proceedings before the United States District Court for the Northern District  of Ohio, his establishment of a limited-liability company on behalf of an Ohio  client, his assistance to an Ohio client in a mortgage modification, and  representations regarding the relationship between an Ohio-licensed attorney  and the Donald Harris Law Firm.

The Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline found that  Harris had violated the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and recommended that  he be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Ohio. 

The Supreme Court, however,  determined that the alleged misconduct relating to a client Harris represented in  the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio did not constitute  the unauthorized practice of law because he was authorized to practice before  that court. The Supreme Court dismissed this matter in deference to the  disciplinary authority of the bankruptcy court.

Further, the court held that  the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, which regulate the conduct of attorneys  admitted to the practice of law in Ohio, do not apply to Harris, because he is not  admitted to the Ohio bar and never took an oath to abide by the disciplinary  rules. As Justice O’Donnell explained: “Harris never took that oath and never  agreed to abide by our rules, and we are reluctant to impose our rules of  conduct on him and other such attorneys who engage in the practice of law in  our state.”

Therefore, the court  dismissed the matters relating to his participation in the formation of a  limited liability company, his involvement in a modification of a mortgage, and  his representations regarding the relationship between himself and other  attorneys in the Donald Harris Law Firm and referred them to the Board on the  Unauthorized Practice of Law.

2012-1698. Disciplinary Counsel v. Harris, Slip  Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-4026.

The ourt concluded that any sanctions against a non-Ohio-admitted attorney would be "ineffective and meaningless." (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2013/09/ohio-nixes-sanctions-against-non-admitted-attorney.html

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