Friday, November 19, 2021

Stayed Suspension For Threats To Estranged Spouse And Her Dating Partner

The Ohio Supreme Court stayed a six-month suspension with conditions

In April 2018, Sean McKee began dating Jones’s estranged wife. Jones claims that about a month later, McKee left him a threatening voicemail. McKee is employed in the men’s-clothing business and throughout his career, has used “The Haberdasher Club” and “Alphasuit” as brand names for his business. In August 2018, Jones filed articles of incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office for two businesses: “Haberdasher Club, LTD” and “Alpha Suit, LLC.” Jones had not contacted McKee about incorporating business entities with those names and was not otherwise involved in the men’s-clothing business.

In late 2019, McKee discovered what Jones had done and filed a grievance against him with relator. In response to the grievance, Jones falsely stated that (1) he had filed the articles of incorporation to protect McKee’s business interests from “trademark bullying” and (2) he had filed the articles of incorporation for Alpha Suit, L.L.C. to form “a debt purchasing company to purchase charged off automobile loans from banks” but abandoned the idea and eventually adopted a different name for the company.

 Jones later dissolved the two companies and admitted that he had incorporated the entities to retaliate against McKee for dating his wife. Jones also admitted that his response to the grievance included “after-the-fact, false rationalizations for his harassing conduct.” Based on these facts, the parties stipulated and the board found that Jones violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(a) (prohibiting a lawyer from knowingly making a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter) and 8.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).


After Jones learned of McKee’s grievance, he sent his then ex-wife hostile text messages about the grievance and his financial support of her. One of the messages threatened retaliation against McKee for submitting the grievance. A few months later, Jones sent his ex-wife another text message about the pending disciplinary investigation. The message stated that his law license supported her and their children and that McKee’s “false” allegations threatened the family’s security.

Jones admitted that his text messages were improper and that they implied that he would retaliate in response to McKee’s grievance. Based on this conduct, the parties stipulated and the board found that Jones’s conduct violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(h) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law)

The court noted his efforts to deal with alcohol issues

Jones engaged in two incidents of deceitful conduct: he filed the articles of incorporation for no legitimate business purpose and then lied about his conduct to relator. Jones also sent inappropriate text messages to his ex-wife implying retaliatory actions in response to the disciplinary grievance that McKee filed against him. As in DeLoach and Wexler, significant mitigating factors are present here, including Jones’s clean disciplinary record, eventual cooperation in the disciplinary process, acknowledgement of his misconduct, good character and reputation, and ongoing rehabilitation and treatment efforts. Considering the balance of aggravating and mitigating factors and the applicable precedent, we agree that a conditionally stayed six-month suspension is the appropriate sanction in this case. We modify the conditions by directing that Jones’s monitored probation focus on ethics.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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