Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unacceptable Indifference

The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports:

The Supreme Court of Ohio today indefinitely suspended the license of [a] former Dayton attorney...currently residing in Indiana, for neglecting legal matters entrusted to him by two clients and subsequently failing to respond to inquiries or otherwise cooperate with disciplinary authorities during the investigation and prosecution of his misconduct.

The Court voted 7-0 to adopt findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that [he] neglected estate planning and property transfer transactions for which he had accepted fee advances, and falsely notarized signature lines on  legal documents that his clients had not yet signed. The Court agreed that [his] acts and omissions were in violation of the state attorney discipline rules that prohibit neglect; conduct involving fraud, deceit dishonesty or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that adversely reflects on an attorney’s fitness to practice law.

The Court also agreed with the board’s finding that by failing to respond to multiple written notices and other attempts to communicate with him by the Dayton Bar Association, or to cooperate with the disciplinary board during the prosecution of the complaint against him, [the attorney] violated the state bar governance rule that requires attorneys to cooperate with all disciplinary proceedings. 

In imposing an indefinite suspension as the appropriate sanction for his misconduct, the Court wrote: “A lawyer’s indifference toward the process of discipline within the legal profession is entirely unacceptable. Indeed, we have held that an indefinite suspension from the practice of law ‘is especially fitting ... [where] neglect of a legal matter is coupled with a failure to cooperate in the ensuing disciplinary investigation.’ ... The single mitigating factor that a lawyer has no previous disciplinary record does not warrant a departure from this rule.”

The court rejected a claim of lack of notice as disciplinary counsel was entitled to rely on the address provided to the Bar, as well as telephone calls and a letter from the attorney that showed actual notice of the proceeding. An investigator had a conversation with the lawyer that was "combative and dismissive." The letter from the lawyer declined to meet the investigator as the effort would be "at best an inconvenience and at worst a huge waste of resources."

The court's opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)


Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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