Thursday, May 8, 2014
Bret Crow reports on the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court
The Ohio Supreme Court today publicly reprimanded former State. Rep. Robert P. Mecklenborg for drunk driving and for negligently misrepresenting facts on his driver’s license renewal application.
Mecklenborg was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in Indiana in April 2011. Four days later, he applied to renew his Ohio driver’s license. In September of that year, Mecklenborg entered a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor violation of Ohio Revised Code section 4507.17 (prohibiting any person whose license is suspended or canceled from applying for or receiving a new license during the suspension or cancellation).
After the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint, the parties agreed that Mecklenborg’s conduct violated two attorney professional conduct rules and that the appropriate sanction was a public reprimand.
The Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline recommended the Supreme Court adopt the consent-to-discipline agreement and sanction, but the Supreme Court sent the case back to the board for consideration of a harsher sanction in April 2013.
A hearing panel of the board issued a report and recommended to the full board that Mecklenborg be suspended from the practice of law for six months, stayed on the condition that he commit no further misconduct.
The board then concluded that Mecklenborg had not engaged in an intentional act of dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and dismissed that rule violation. The violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(h) remained (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law).
According to the court’s per curiam (not assigned to a specific justice) opinion, “the board found that in light of the facts that Mecklenborg had sought and acted on the advice of counsel and signed a preprinted form provided by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, his conduct did not constitute an intentional act of dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
Once again, the board recommended a public reprimand to the court, which the court adopted by a 6-1 vote. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor would have imposed a stayed six-month suspension.
The court also addressed the issue of an appropriate sanction in its opinion.
“We have publicly reprimanded attorneys who have notarized documents without having witnessed the signatures – conduct that is arguably more egregious than Mecklenborg’s negligent misrepresentation to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Moreover, a panel of 12 appellate court judges has publicly reprimanded a justice of this court who was convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol.”