Wednesday, April 21, 2021
The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered a stayed six-month suspension for an attorney's misconduct in court-appointed matters.
One matter involved a criminal appeal
On May 15, 2019, Valenti appeared for oral argument and informed the appellate panel that the parties intended to waive oral argument and stand on their briefs. One of the judges, however, expressed serious concerns about Valenti’s brief. He stated that the citations and abbreviations made no sense and that the brief was “52 pages of the most difficult reading I’ve ever probably done in 12 years.” The judge noted that considering the seriousness of Doak’s sentence,
Valenti thereafter sought and obtained an extension of time until June 3, 2019, to file the reply brief. But she failed to submit the brief by the deadline, and the court of appeals sua sponte removed her as Doak’s counsel. In its entry, the court noted that Valenti’s merit brief was “inadequate, incoherent and unintelligible” and that she was unprepared for oral argument. The court appointed new appellate counsel for Doak and granted the attorney additional time to file a new brief on Doak’s behalf.
At her disciplinary hearing, Valenti acknowledged that her appellate brief included confusing abbreviations, incomplete sentences, improper citations to constitutional provisions, a confusing statement of facts, and unclear legal arguments. According to Valenti, she had inadvertently filed a draft of her brief and failed to save the final version—a fact that she did not realize until after oral argument. She also testified that although she had intended to meet the June 3, 2019 deadline for the reply brief, her USB flash drive “broke off” and the court removed her from the case before she could file the brief.
Misconduct was found in two other court-appointed matters.
Considering Valenti’s misconduct, the relevant mitigating and aggravating factors, and the sanctions imposed for comparable misconduct, we agree that a six-month suspension, stayed in its entirety on the conditions recommended by the board, is appropriate. But given the problems identified in this case and that court-appointed work is a significant portion of Valenti’s practice, we also require her to complete six hours of continuing legal education in criminal appellate law prior to accepting any new appointments in appellate cases.