Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Taken To The Cleaners

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.

2013-0223. Cincinnati Bar Assn. v. Alsfelder, Slip  Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-870.

(Mike Frisch)


Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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