Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Stay (Just A Little Bit Longer)

A busy discipline day for the Ohio Supreme Court with a matter involving an attorney previously sanctioned

In 2012, we suspended him for one year for misconduct relating to a report from the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations. That report found that while McNeal served in the Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps, he submitted false pay forms and used his military LexisNexis account for reasons related to his private law practice.

He admitted misconduct in a client matter

McNeal is a general practitioner and represents clients in a range of areas, including criminal defense, bankruptcy, domestic relations, and civil matters. In August 2014, Warren Lanier Sr. and Gwendolyn Lanier retained McNeal to investigate a water-drainage problem in their backyard, which the Laniers claimed continued even after the builder of their home, Maronda Homes, Inc., made repairs to the underground drainage system. The Laniers agreed to pay McNeal a $400 retainer over several installments, and he advised them that he would contact Maronda Homes...

During the disciplinary proceedings, McNeal stipulated that although he was aware that the Laniers had a home warranty and homeowners’ insurance, he did not contact those companies or attempt to determine whether any repairs would be covered under those policies. He further admitted that he never made contact with anyone at Maronda Homes with authority to discuss the Laniers’ problem, he never confirmed who was actually responsible for the drainage issue, and he never filed any complaint on the Laniers’ behalf. Prior to his disciplinary hearing, he refunded the $400 retainer to the Laniers.


Earl Darren McNeal is suspended from the practice of law for one year, fully stayed on the conditions that he (1) complete six hours of continuing legal education on law-office management in each of the next three years, commencing with the date of this court’s disciplinary order, (2) pay the costs of these proceedings, and (3) engage in no further misconduct. If McNeal fails to comply with the conditions of the stay, the stay will be lifted, and he will serve the full one-year suspension.

Chief Justice O'Connor dissented and would stay six months of the suspension.

And a stayed suspension was imposed in an unrelated matter involving an attorney with prior discipline

In 1987, this court suspended him on an interim basis after receiving notice that a federal court had convicted him of perjury for falsely testifying at a bankruptcy hearing. In 1990, we suspended him for two years for the conduct that led to his conviction but granted him credit for time served under his interim suspension.

The misconduct involved a custody case.

In 2015, relator, disciplinary counsel, charged him with mishandling a client’s custody matter and making false statements during the disciplinary process. Derryberry entered into factual stipulations with relator but initially maintained that his conduct did not violate any of the professional-conduct rules. After a hearing, the Board of Professional Conduct found that Derryberry engaged in most of the charged misconduct and recommended that we suspend him for one year, with six months conditionally stayed. Derryberry objects to the board’s findings, arguing for a fully stayed suspension or public reprimand.

The court stated that his false statements in responding to the bar complaint were "troubling." (Mike Frisch)


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