Thursday, October 17, 2013

Indefinite Suspension

From Kathleen Mahoney on the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

The Ohio Supreme Court today  indefinitely suspended Westlake attorney Joseph P. O’Malley from the practice  of law for concealing a felony (misprision), improperly influencing a judge,  and making a materially false statement to agents conducting a federal  investigation into corruption in Cuyahoga County.

In its 6-1 decision, the Supreme  Court adopted the findings of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances &  Discipline. However, the board recommended an indefinite suspension with credit  for the time O’Malley had served under a prior interim suspension imposed  following his conviction on related matters. The court determined, though, that  the appropriate sanction shouldn’t include credit for the earlier time served.

The court, in a per curiam (not  authored by a specific justice) opinion, considered two counts of misconduct.

While working in 2008 as an  independent contractor for his former boss, Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank  Russo, O’Malley had an employee of Russo’s “complete” a previously submitted  employment application to demonstrate that the employee was actually qualified  for the job for which he had been hired. O’Malley was convicted of misprision  of a felony in this matter.

Also in 2008, O’Malley  represented two homeowners in a foreclosure action in his private practice. O’Malley  was attempting to settle the case, but the court hadn’t ruled on summary  judgment motions, which had been pending for at least a year. He asked Russo in  the spring or summer to tell the trial judge in the case to deny the motions  because he wanted to go to trial for his clients. In July, the judge denied the  motions as instructed by Russo. A conversation between O’Malley and Russo about  this case had been recorded by federal authorities.

When FBI agents questioned  O’Malley, he said he hadn’t asked Russo for any help with his private practice  cases. O’Malley was convicted of making a materially false statement.

The federal court sentenced  O’Malley to four months in prison, a $10,000 fine, two years of supervised  release, and 250 hours of community service. He has completed his prison term,  has paid his fine, and at the time of the board’s hearing was within five hours  of meeting his community-service obligations.

The Supreme Court today found  that O’Malley’s conduct undermined the integrity of the judicial system and, given  that, he should not receive credit for the time he served under his interim  suspension. O’Malley may apply for reinstatement after the two-year minimum  period for an indefinite suspension and then only when he has completed all  parts of his federal sentence, including his supervised release, the court  said.

The majority opinion was joined  by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence  O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French.

Justice William M. O’Neill  dissented, stating he would grant O’Malley credit for the time he served during  his interim felony suspension.

The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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