Tuesday, April 28, 2015
A public reprimand was imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for an attorney's failure to attend to multiple matters
Briefly stated, over a period of several months in 2010, Attorney Stobbe missed a series of filing deadlines for several clients, failed to file appropriate appellate briefs, and then failed to respond to court orders directing filing and imposing sanctions. The record before us does not clearly indicate what led to this misconduct, but it appears that Attorney Stobbe was in poor health at the time.
The attorney also was required to pay costs, which were under $1,000. (Mike Frisch)
An attorney convicted on her plea of guilty to misprision of felony in Virginia federal district court has filed a motion for consent disbarment in Illinois
As part of that plea, Movant admitted that she held various roles at Gallant including office manager, identifying prospective customers for Gallant’s misbranded, non-FDA approved drugs, and arranging for the importation and distribution of the drugs. Included as the imported drugs were injectable chemotherapeutic agents, injectable cosmetic fillers, and injectable agents used to treat side effects of chemotherapy, many of which were subject to federally mandated strict temperature controls which were not complied with by Gallant.
On May 16, 2014, the Honorable Claude M. Hilton sentenced Respondent to nine months imprisonment in the Bureau of Prisons, one-year of supervised release, and a fine of $75,000.
This press release from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia summarizes the case
According to information made public in court, between August 2009 and August 2013, Gallant Pharma smuggled into the United States and sold more than $12.4 million in non-FDA-approved chemotherapy drugs and injectable cosmetic drugs and devices, generating profits of $3.4 million. Many of these drugs were subject to strict temperature controls to protect drug potency. Gallant Pharma shipped and received such drugs with ice packs, not dry ice as used by legitimate distributors, and on at least one occasion, a shipment containing such drugs took more than two weeks to arrive in Virginia from overseas during a July 2012 heat wave. Many drugs sold by Gallant Pharma were also required to carry a FDA “black box” warning, which indicates that a drug carries a significant risk of serious or life-threatening adverse effects. The versions sold by Gallant Pharma did not meet this or other FDA labeling requirements.
Law360 had this report on the criminal case against Gallant. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, April 27, 2015
A four-month suspension has been imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a series of alcohol-related criminal issues:
The referee noted that the allegations in the OLR's complaint involved Attorney Belke's conviction for seven misdemeanor counts. According to the OLR's complaint, on August 10, 2010, a deputy sheriff responded to a call of an intoxicated person, later identified as Attorney Belke, in the General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. As a result of his conduct, Attorney Belke was arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. He entered a guilty plea and was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. His sentence included one day in jail and a $500 fine. Attorney Belke failed to notify the OLR of his misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction.
There were also a number of domestic abuse incidents against his mother, DUI and bail jumping charges.
pursuant to a plea agreement, Attorney Belke pled no contest to and was convicted of the misdemeanor disorderly conduct (domestic abuse) charge that arose out of the June 6, 2012 domestic disturbance between Attorney Belke and his mother. He also pled no contest to two misdemeanor bail jumping charges arising out of the July 3, 2012 arrest. The remaining bail jumping charges were dismissed but read-in at sentencing. Attorney Belke's sentence included two years of probation with sentence withheld and conditions that he not possess any firearms, maintain absolute sobriety, not be on any premises licensed to sell alcohol by the drink, not possess any alcohol where he resides, undergo and comply with an alcohol and drug assessment, not have any violent contact with his mother, maintain full-time employment, and abide by any other rules or recommendations as imposed by the supervising probation agent. Attorney Belke failed to notify the OLR of his misdemeanor disorderly conduct (domestic abuse) conviction and his two misdemeanor bail jumping convictions.
Shortly after the plea, he rolled a vehicle over while driving under the influence
The referee noted that Attorney Belke's conduct did not involve dishonesty or failure to represent clients. The referee also noted that Attorney Belke has been in compliance with all treatment recommendations of all substance abuse providers, has abstained from all alcohol or other mood-altering substances, and has regularly participated in community-based support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The referee also pointed to Attorney Belke's lack of any prior disciplinary history. Based on what the referee termed "these mitigating factors," the referee concluded that a 90-day suspension was appropriate. As a condition, the referee recommends that Attorney Belke continue to participate in a monitoring contract with WisLAP and that he comply with the contract conditions relating to assessment and treatment.
He must honor the treatment agreement. (Mike Frisch).
A three-month suspension was imposed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department as a result of an attorney's tax problems
Respondent, a native of the West Indies, worked for the New York City Law Department from 1994 until 2001, at which time he left to start a law firm. Since 2014, he has been a solo practitioner in the Bronx.
Respondent admitted that he failed to timely file his federal and New York State personal income tax returns, and to pay the applicable taxes, for the years 2004 through 2012. By way of explanation, he testified that, beginning in 2004, his attention was focused on providing financial assistance to his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease and had lost her home as a result of Hurricane Ivan. Further, in 2008, respondent contributed $20,000 to help his sister with a struggling catering business.
Respondent did not take steps to address his tax debt until informed by the New York State tax authorities in 2012 that he was under investigation. At that point, he retained counsel, as well as an accountant to prepare and file his delinquent returns.
The court rejected a Hearing Panel's proposed five-month suspension
While respondent's misconduct was protracted, it was nonvenal and mitigated by his unblemished 25-year legal career and the financial pressures resulting from his late mother's and sister's situations. Respondent has accepted responsibility for his conduct; he has paid over $60,000 in restitution; and he is "desperately" trying to make arrangements to resolve his tax debt.
The attorney must affirm his agreement to pay off the remaining obligation. (Mike Frisch)
Sunday, April 26, 2015
From the web page of the Colorado Supreme Court
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Bruce A. Logan (Attorney Registration Number 14187) from the practice of law for ninety days, all stayed pending successful completion of a three-year period of probation. As conditions of probation, Logan must comply with court orders issued in a domestic relations case in Arapahoe County District Court and he must report to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel on his compliance with those court orders. The probation took effect April 16, 2015.
For about twenty months in total, Logan failed to pay child support as ordered by the Arapahoe County District Court. According to Logan, he was financially unable to meet those obligations. By failing to pay court-ordered child support, Logan violated Colo. RPC 3.4(c) (a lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal) and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
In addition, Logan stated on his 2014 attorney registration statement that he was in compliance with child support obligations, even though he knew he was not. By doing so, Logan violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).
Saturday, April 25, 2015
A suspension of six months and a day was imposed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court of an attorney who listed himself as admitted in that jurisdiction while on administrative suspension
The respondent was admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth in 1974. He was administratively suspended by the Supreme Judicial Court in July 2005 for failure to register and pay his dues, and was never reinstated. From at least 2009 and at all relevant times thereafter, he resided in New Hampshire. At no time was he admitted to the practice of law in New Hampshire or in any other state. Following the respondent’s administrative suspension in July 2005, he did not seek reinstatement...
On or about January 4, 2010, the respondent began working at a law firm in New Hampshire. On its website, the firm listed the respondent as a licensed Massachusetts attorney. In May 2010, a couple, who resided the State of Washington, retained the firm to handle a loan modification related to their residential real estate. They signed a fee agreement with the firm agreeing to pay a flat fee for the representation. The fee agreement entered into by the clients described the scope of the representation as including negotiation of a loan modification on their real property, as well as advice on what legal steps they would need to take to settle, reduce or discharge their debts.
In May 2010, the respondent sent a letter to the clients about their mortgage modification. The letter described the respondent as “Attorney Peter Larkowich.” The respondent signed the letter using the title “Esq.” after his name. In June 2010, the respondent sent a letter to the lender indicating that the firm represented the borrowers and formally requested a mortgage modification. The respondent also signed this letter using the title “Esq.” after his name. A copy of this letter was sent to the clients. Twice in August 2010, the respondent sent emails to one of the clients updating her on the status of the mortgage modification. Both times, the respondent used the title “Esq.” in the email.
The attorney thus engaged in unauthorized practice in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
The sanction begins once the attorney has secured reinstatement from the administrative suspension. (Mike Frisch)
Friday, April 24, 2015
A Louisiana Hearing Board has proposed a full-stayed one-year suspension with six months of unsupervised probation of an attorney who (while represented by counsel) violated immunity provisions by suing a bar complainant.
The complainant was his former son-in-law, who had made a series of personal attacks against him that "may have grossly impaired his judgment at the time the charged misconduct occurred."
The committee also found that the Respondent "was not well served by his attorney."
An experienced attorney can thoroughly research a statute and master it. He will know its legislative history, be familiar with the many court decisions involved in the litigation of that statute. Lawyers are trained to seek and find ambiguity in the law (gray areas). Ambiguity in the hands of a good lawyer can be used as a "sword" to protect the rights of citizens. This is not to say that [counsel] and [Respondent] are not good lawyers, quite the contrary. However, the Committee feels they may have been to close to the situation to assess it correctly.
Here, "creativity" crossed the line into the land of frivolity. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, April 23, 2015
I have just returned from the oral argument before the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility in a case on which I previously have blogged.
The case is In re Rohde and it is notable in that the hearing committee filed its "report" (due by rule 120 days after the record closes) over seven years after the hearing was held.
I believe that this is the most flagrant and inexcusable delay in D.C. Bar discipline history, allowing a convicted felon to practice law for all those years while the committee "deliberated."
The most amusing moment was when Assistant Bar Counsel Joe Bowman was asked by a BPR member why the hearing committee took so long.
He gave the proper answer - he had no idea.
The delay was caused by the gross inefficiency of a system run by the Executive Office of the BPR and the hearing committees that are selected, trained and advised by that office.
The delay was caused by "responsible" officials entrusted with public duties who do not care a whit about efficiency or the public interest.
The BPR can find the answer to this important question by looking carefully in a mirror. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Permanent disbarment has been imposed by the Indiana Supreme Court of an attorney who, among other things, "maintained a tempestuous long-distance relationship" with his daughter's college roommate.
The story is a frightening tale of abuse and harassment after the roommate JR ended it.
During the course of the four-month affair and thereafter, the married attorney sent "at least" 7,199 emails to JR. The "vast majority" of these communications "were threatening, abusive, and highly manipulative in nature."
He borrowed about $8,000 from her and conditioned repayment on her meeting with him. He threatened to commit suicide.
Even more perniciously, Respondent threatened to publicly disseminate explicit photographs of JD taken during their relationship, and to contact JD’s family, friends, acquaintances, and other third parties regarding Respondent’s accusations that JD was a "whore" or a "slut" and that she suffered from mental illness and psychosis.
He then "repeatedly carried out...threats, both through emails to others and through postings on various adult-oriented websites." He also maintained a blog that identified JD by name and with photographs.
After JD started law school, he confronted her in the law school library and demanded that she have coffee with him.
Eventually the harassment led to the intervention of the associate dean for students at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. The attorney contended in response that JR was voluntarily engaging with him and told the dean she had "a lengthy history of mental illness, physical abuse, self-mutilation, and substance abuse."
JR obtained an order of protection but he not only continued the contact, he sued her in state court for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. He later filed a federal court action against JR and others alleging false arrest.
Before the Indiana high court, the attorney claimed that his interest in JR was "mutual, consensual, and not unwelcome."
Respondent also contends that his actions do not amount to stalking or harassment because there is no evidence showing that (1) JD actually experienced emotional distress due to Respondent’s conduct, (2) a reasonable person in JD’s position would be distressed by Respondent’s conduct, and (3) Respondent possessed the requisite intent. Again though, the hearing officer found to the contrary, the evidence amply supports her findings, and accordingly we decline to disturb them.
Finally, Respondent’s contention that he did not intimidate JD is similarly unavailing. His argument that he did not act with the intent to induce JD to do anything against her will invites a reweighing of evidence, which we decline. Nor do we find Respondent’s attempted invocation of truth as a defense to be persuasive here. Respondent’s statements to others about JD’s character and alleged mental illness, substance abuse, and physical abuse find no evidentiary support beyond Respondent’s self-serving testimony, which was discredited by the hearing officer. Further, statements that when viewed in context amount to "true threats" to someone’s safety – such as the thinly-veiled threats of violence contained in Respondent’s December 2008 email to JD, by which time Respondent had left dozens of profane and abusive voicemails, sent many more similar emails, twice appeared unannounced at JD’s residence, peeped into her bedroom window, confronted her in the law library, and blocked her entry into her car, among many other things – enjoy no protection...
Put simply, Respondent engaged in - and continues to engage in - a scorched earth campaign of revenge in the wake of being dumped by JD seven years ago, in March 2008....
Most disturbingly, despite the entreaties of JD and several others, Respondent simply has refused to take "no" for an answer.
Respondent’s repugnant pattern of behavior and utter lack of remorse with respect to the events involving JD, his deceitful responses and lack of candor toward the Commission, his neglect involving DS’s appeal, his inability or unwillingness to appreciate the wrongfulness of his misconduct, and his propensity throughout to shift blame to others and see himself as the victim, all lead us unhesitatingly to conclude that disbarment is warranted and that Respondent’s privilege to practice law should permanently be revoked.
He already was suspended for CLE non-compliance. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Ethics charges from the Illinois Administrator
In the early afternoon of February 22, 2013, Respondent was present at the Whole Foods supermarket in River Forest, Illinois. She placed approximately seventeen articles of merchandise, including food items and cosmetics, into her pockets and purse. The items had a value of approximately $176.98. Thereafter, she walked past the cash registers and attempted to leave the store without paying for the items. Loss prevention agents detained Respondent outside the store. Respondent admitted to taking the items, stating, "I don’t know why I did it." The loss prevention agents contacted the River Forest Police Department, and an officer responded to the scene.
The attorney is also charged with failure to cooperate with the bar investigation. (Mike Frisch)
A conditional admission and sanction from the Colorado Presiding Disciplinary Judge
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Richard C. Folk (Attorney Registration Number 44055) for two years, all but ninety days stayed pending the successful completion of a two-year period of probation. The suspension took effect April 10, 2015.
On November 13, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Folk from the practice of law in Illinois for two years and until further order of that court. The suspension in Illinois was stayed after ninety days by a two-year period of probation, with conditions. Folk purchased 7.25 pounds of marijuana in California. On his return trip to Illinois, he was stopped by a police officer in Nevada. Folk was arrested after falsely denying that he had any controlled substances in his car. He was later found guilty of the misdemeanor offense of possession of marijuana. Through these actions, Folk committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
Folk’s misconduct constitutes grounds for reciprocal discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and 251.21, which calls for imposition of the same discipline as that imposed in Illinois.
When a disciplinary hearing committee wonders whether a case should have been brought at all, it likely is not a good omen for disciplinary counsel.
A Louisiana Hearing Committee wondered just that and rejected charges that a suspended lawyer who filed a pleading on behalf of her own LLC engaged in unauthorized practice of law.
The pleading was in answer to a partition suit and avoided a default from being entered.
This also caused the committee concern
The Committee also notes that someone involved with the disciplinary complaint must have advised the St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office that Respondent would be in the courthouse for the disciplinary hearing and that the Respondent also had an outstanding warrant for an unrelated matter. The Respondent was arrested following the hearing but the Committee would note that such a tactic brought by whomever, could have resulted in a substantial waste of time not only for the lawyer members of the Committee but for the public member of the Committee who had to drive all the way from Amite, Louisiana had the Sheriffs Office not agreed to allow the hearing to go forward before the arrest was made.
The committee recognized that the Supreme Court might rule to the contrary on the question of law and proposes a reprimand if the court finds the violation. (Mike Frisch)
The North Carolina State Bar has filed a two-count complaint based on allegations made by two of the attorney's former clients.
One count involves a client who had retained the attorney and expressed concern about the progress of the matter. In response, the attorney told them to pick up their file.
The complaint alleges that the attorney's office was locked when they arrived.
He had taped the client file to his office door with a note reading "gone to court." The file contained original will and vehicle title documents.
The count alleges violation of the duty of confidentiality and improper withdrawal. (Mike Frisch)
When state bars revise their web pages, the result often is greater transparency in bar disciplinary matters.
Tennessee revised its Board on Professional Responsibility web page a few months ago.
One byproduct of that change was (at least for a Luddite such as myself) was to make it harder, not easier, to locate recent reports.
I have tried to navigate my way to this information and the best I can do is a quarterly report that includes case summaries.
One caught my eye
On September 2, 2012, the Board of Professional Responsibility filed a Petition for Discipline against Mr. Sams. Mr. Sams submitted inflated, false and deceptive fee claims to the Administrative Office of the Courts. From January, 2009 until December 31, 2010, there are approximately 478 days on which Mr. Sams billed more than eight hours to the AOC. For the majority of those days, Mr. Sams billed ten to eleven hours per day. Mr. Sams was unable to produce any documents to verify any billing entry. Mr. Sams billed nearly twelve hours on a day when he attended an eight hour, out of state CLE. Mr. Sams billed the AOC when other lawyers covered for him in court, a practice prohibited by Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 13. On January 16, 2014, the Board of Professional Responsibility filed a Supplemental Petition for Discipline against Mr. Sams alleging that he knowingly understated his income in his personal bankruptcy. A Hearing Panel determined that disbarment was the appropriate sanction. Mr. Sams did not respond to the supplemental petition and he did not appear for the final hearing.
Guess the attorney could not find the time to show up. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, April 20, 2015
The Georgia Supreme court has accepted an attorney's agreement to an interim suspension pending resolution of criminal charges
The State Bar responds that while there is no specific rule that contemplates a suspension in this context, Smith’s request strikes a reasonable balance between the need for public protection and Smith’s right to defend against the criminal charges, see In the Matter of Swank, 288 Ga. 479 (704 SE2d 807) (2011), so it has no objection to the Court’s granting his petition.
Having reviewed the record, the Court agrees that Smith’s request should be granted. Therefore, it is hereby ordered that Wilson R. Smith be suspended from the practice of law in this State during the pendency of the criminal charges against him and until further order of this Court.
KFVS 12 reported on the charges.
Sheriff Kight said the counts involve clients, and more clients are being interviewed. More charges could be filed against Smith.
Friday, April 17, 2015
The Wyoming Supreme Court has ordered a public censure of an attorney for misrepresentations in an appellate brief
The Formal Charge arising from Mr. Custis’s representation of Gilbert Ortiz, Jr. stemmed from a brief filed by Mr. Custis in the Wyoming Supreme Court appealing Mr. Ortiz’s convictions on three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Ortiz v. State, 2014 WY 60, 326 P.3d 883 (Wyo. 2014). In his brief, Mr. Custis argued that the forensic interviewer, Lynn Huylar, had improperly vouched for the victim’s credibility. The brief included an extensive discussion, with quotes, of Ms. Huylar’s testimony. However, the testimony referred to was not Ms. Huylar’s testimony in the Ortiz case; rather, it was her testimony in a similar case, Seward v. State, 2003 WY 116, 76 P.3d 805 (Wyo. 2003), in which this Court held that she improperly vouched for the victim’s credibility. No citation informed the reader that the testimony discussed had been given in Seward and not Ortiz.
The court rejected due process claims based on the entry of default (citing a couple of D.C. cases I handled) and alleged prosecutorial vindictiveness.
There is no "magic formula" to attorney sanctions.
Although attorney discipline can serve to improve the performance of attorneys who have strayed in performing their ethical obligations, when an attorney continues to engage in professional and ethical misconduct in spite of previous sanctions, our concern weighs more heavily toward deterrence, maintaining the integrity of the legal system, and protecting the public. This Court’s decision in Custis I was published on November 7, 2012. Even assuming he made no changes in his office procedures until that date, some of Mr. Custis’s misconduct occurred after, he contends, he made improvements to his procedures to avoid any further discipline.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ordered a 30-month suspension of an attorney who had previously been reprimanded for a battery conviction.
In the early morning hours of September 5, 2013, Attorney Evenson approached an obviously intoxicated 22-year-old woman, E.V., and her friend as they were getting into a cab outside a bar on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. E.V. agreed to leave with Attorney Evenson despite the cab driver's effort to dissuade her. Attorney Evenson took E.V. to his downtown Madison law firm, where he provided her "Molly" (commonly known as "ecstasy") and alcohol. They had sexual intercourse at the law office. Attorney Evenson then drove the woman to his home where they had more alcohol and again engaged in sexual intercourse. The next day, E.V. awoke bruised, unsure where she was, and had difficulty recalling what had happened. She notified the police.
As a result, the attorney was convicted of drug and sexual assault offenses.
He stipulated to the period of suspension
The OLR noted in its memorandum that several aggravating factors were present in this case, including that Attorney Evenson's conduct involved the illicit use and delivery of a controlled substance; that he has been previously disciplined for assaultive conduct; and that his victim was much younger and intoxicated, rendering her vulnerable to his predatory advances. In mitigation of his misconduct, the OLR noted that Attorney Evenson cooperated in the disciplinary matter and admits that he has a substance abuse issue.
The Wisconsin State Journal had this earlier report. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging misconduct that resulted in a theft conviction.
At issue was the disposition of funds held in escrow from a real estate sale with a company(RAI) owned by the attorney's close friend Michael Doran
On June 5, 2009, sale of the real estate was completed and escrow closed. On or about that same date, Respondent presented a $260,000 demand payment to be paid from the Seabreeze escrowed sales funds to RAI. The $260,000 was wire-transferred that same day from the Union Bank account of Stewart Title and Escrow into RAI’s Chase bank account ending in 9414.
RAI performed no environmental impact reports, nor any other actual work or services to warrant the $260,000 paid to RAI by Storm Properties.
After receiving the $260,000, Doran funneled approximately one-half of the funds, or $130,000, back to Respondent for Respondent’s own personal use, including the purchase of a Ferrari automobile for the sum of $84,275, and payment for a private party thrown by Respondent aboard a chartered yacht.
Both the attorney and Doran were found guilty in California.
The Las Vegas Sun reported on the criminal case.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau determined that there was no legitimate purpose for the $260,000 disbursement, and that Simard and Doran went to great lengths to commit the theft by creating a fictitious contract for services that had never been rendered. Simard also made several false statements during the course of the investigation, and provided the owner of Storm Properties and sheriff’s detectives with counterfeit documents in an attempt to justify the disbursement. In addition, sheriff’s detectives learned that Simard and Doran split the $260,000, and Simard used a portion of it to purchase a Ferrari 550 Maranello from a dealer in Newport Beach. In July, 2010, sheriff’s detectives served a search warrant at Simard’s home in La Habra Heights and seized the Ferrari.
During the course of the investigation, Simard moved to Henderson, Nevada, and Doran lived in Springfield, Illinois. In March, 2012, the Los Angeles County District Attorney filed multiple felony counts against Simard and Doran, including Grand Theft and Conspiracy. Warrants were issued for their arrests. In April, 2012, Doran was arrested in Illinois and extradited to California. Simard was arrested at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, after entering the country on a flight from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Simard and Doran were released from custody, and remained free on bond while the case was adjudicated
The Ohio Supreme Court has suspended a judge as a result of a felony conviction.
The Bellfontaine Examiner reported his resignation
An Ohio judge has resigned after a jury found him guilty of tampering with records and other charges for not disclosing his ownership interest in a Lorain office building where several lawyers have legal practices.
Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge submitted his letter of resignation Tuesday to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Burge was convicted last week.
He'd been disqualified from serving as a judge since his September indictment.
A spokesman for Kasich says the governor's office will ask the county's Republican Party for recommendations to replace Burge, a Democrat.
Burge took the bench in 2007 after years as a defense attorney. He tells The Chronicle-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1b2EWTC ) in Elyria that his resignation was a tough way to end a career in law.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
An attorney who accepted a court appointment to handle an acrimonious probate matter was suspended for 18 months for misconduct in the matter by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Personal issues intervened and led to serious ethics violations
Respondent's personal life then became tumultuous. In February of 2011, Respondent's wife informed him she had quit her job. She then began spending large amounts of money, including monthly credit card charges of between $6,000 and $12,000 dollars. In May of 2011, Respondent came home "to very abruptly discover [his wife] was having an affair." Respondent testified his wife threatened to take him for every dime he had and to take his daughter if he left her, so during this time he was just "trying to make ends meet and keep [his wife] happy" and provide for his three-month old daughter. Respondent began transferring money from the Cox Estate bank account to his personal bank account without prior approval from the court and without telling the heirs to the Cox Estate. Between May of 2011 and December of 2011, Respondent made six transfers of varying amounts totaling approximately $45,749.98. The record indicates the amount transferred was the amount allegedly earned for legal and statutory fees for administering the Cox Estate. Divorce proceedings were filed in December of 2011, and Respondent's divorce was final in February of 2012.
In the case before us, although we are persuaded from the record that Respondent's conduct was an isolated incident and is not likely to happen again, we simply cannot ignore Respondent's attempt to cover up his mishandling of fees and the seriousness of those actions. Almost two years passed before Respondent fully disclosed his conduct to the parties and the probate court, and apparently, he only did so at that point because Mr. Gotwals and his client began asking questions and seeking information regarding the amount of funds available in the estate. Respondent's actions not only created more litigation for the heirs to the Cox Estate, but compounded an already embittered situation. Considering the discipline administered in similar cases and evidence offered in mitigation, we agree with the PRT that eighteen months is an appropriate suspension.
The attorney had no record of prior discipline. (Mike Frisch)