Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Kevin Kidder has this summary of a disciplinary case from the Ohio Supreme Court
The Ohio Supreme Court today announced that it will indefinitely suspend Cincinnati attorney Robert F. Alsfelder Jr. from the practice of law for failing to respond to repeated court orders for information as part of an investigation into his alleged misconduct.
In a 7-0 decision, the Supreme Court adopted the findings of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline. The per curiam (not authored by a specific justice) opinion concluded that Alsfelder violated professional conduct rules by not complying with investigators or court orders requesting documents.
Alsfelder was a customer of Eastern Hills Dry Cleaners when in 2005 he and his wife, an accountant, agreed to manage the “business aspects” of the company. The couple charged $225 per hour for legal services, and $65 an hour for business-related services. Alsfelder cashed the checks he received at various Cincinnati banks.
Between 2005 and 2008, Eastern Hills Dry Cleaners and its owner, Joseph Witschger, paid more than $152,000 to Alsfelder.
In 2010, a probable cause panel agreed with a two-count complaint made by the Cincinnati Bar Association alleging that Alsfelder had failed to maintain records of client funds and had converted funds to his own personal use, and had improperly used information he received in his role with the dry cleaners to the company’s detriment.
Two years later the bar association added two more counts, alleging that he had failed to report income he received from his business relationship on his federal and state tax returns, and that Alsfelder had not cooperated with investigators.
In 2011, the Supreme Court found Alsfelder in contempt for not appearing for a deposition and failing to produce documents, and then suspended him later that year. In 2012, Alsfelder was found in contempt a second time.
In today’s ruling, the court found that there was insufficient evidence to establish the underlying misconduct, but held that Alsfelder had violated professional conduct rules by not cooperating in the disciplinary proceedings and ignoring at least five board orders and three Supreme Court orders to produce documents, including certain tax returns.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the court agreed with the board’s finding of four aggravating factors, including a previous one-year suspension for misconduct, failing to cooperate with investigators and the court, and engaging in deceptive practices. The court found no mitigating factors.
“Alsfelder’s misconduct goes far beyond the typical failure to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation. It encompasses a complete and contumacious disregard of this court’s orders over a period of years,” the court concluded in its decision. “Alsfelder’s recalcitrance flies in the face of his oath of office, his duties to this court, and his duties to the legal profession as a whole.”
The court noted that Alsfelder’s new suspension will not go into effect until he complies with the court’s contempt orders.