Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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The Supreme Court granted a peremptory writ of prohibition to halt an action for an assignment for the benefit of a disbarred attorney’s creditors (the ABC action) pending before a Hamilton County probate judge. In 2004, nineteen judgment creditors filed a lawsuit alleging that the attorney at issue had stolen millions of dollars in settlement funds while representing them. A Kentucky trial court ruled that the attorney was jointly and severally liable for $42 million. The court of appeals affirmed. In 2013, the Kentucky Supreme Court permanently disbarred the attorney for his conduct in the underlying representation. In 2015, a Boone County circuit court judge ordered the attorney to transfer his beneficial interest in a company, which were held in trust for the purpose of winding up operations, to the creditors. The attorney did not transfer the shares to the creditors, and the shares were later transferred. The Supreme Court granted the creditors’ motion for a peremptory writ of prohibition barring further proceedings in the ABC action, holding that the necessary elements for a writ of prohibition to issue were all present in this case. View "State ex rel. McGirr v. Winkler" on Justia Law

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While she was a 2012 judicial candidate for the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, Respondent, who had previously served on the Eleventh District Court of Appeals but was no longer an incumbent judge, wore a name badge identifying herself as a judge of the Eleventh District Court of Appeals. A five-member judicial commission found that, during the campaign, Respondent violated Jud. Cond. R. 4.3(A). The Supreme Court affirmed the commission’s order in part, holding (1) the portion of Rule 4.3(A) that prohibits a judicial candidate from conveying information about the judicial candidate or candidate’s opponent that the candidate knows to be false is not an overbroad restriction on speech and is not unconstitutionally vague; and (2) the portion of Rule 4.3(A) that prohibits a judicial candidate from knowingly or recklessly conveying information about the candidate or the candidate’s opponent that, if true, would deceive or mislead a reasonable person is unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment. Accordingly, the Court severed the unconstitutional portion of the rule, found that Respondent committed one rather than two violations, and agreed with the commission that a remand is appropriate. View "In re Judicial Campaign Complaint Against O’’Toole" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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Appellant filed a petition for a writ of prohibition seeking to prevent Appellees, a judge and magistrate on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, from exercising jurisdiction over a foreclosure action filed against a client that Appellant represented. The court of appeals granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, concluding that Appellant lacked standing and that Appellant could not prevail on the merits even if he did have standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant lacked standing to bring this case, as lawyers do not have standing to bring claims in their own names based on violations of their clients’ rights. View "State ex rel. Wood v. McClelland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court of Ohio filed with the Supreme Court a certified copy of a judgment entry of a felony conviction against Rosenfield, a Cleveland attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Ohio. The court suspended Rosenfield from the practice of law for an interim period, pending disciplinary counsel’s investigation and the commencement of disciplinary proceedings. View "In re Rosenfield" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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In an earlier litigation, Kleem retained Julian Vanni and Vanni & Associates (collectively, Vanni) to appraise certain real property in dispute between the parties. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Kleem and against Southwest Sports Center. Southwest subsequently filed suit against Kleem and Vanni. The case was assigned to Judge Richard McMonagle. Vanni sought a writ of prohibition to prevent Judge McMonagle from hearing the litigation, arguing that the judge lacked jurisdiction based on the jurisdictional-priority rule, claim preclusion, and witness immunity. The court of appeals dismissed the case, concluding that Judge McMonagle did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction and that Vanni had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Judge McMonagle did not patently lack jurisdiction and that Vanni had an adequate remedy by way of appeal. View "State ex rel. Vanni v. McMonagle" on Justia Law

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Respondent, a candidate for county probate judge, was found to have violated former Jud. Cond. R. 4.4(E) for having received campaign contributions from judicial fundraising events during the judicial campaign that categorized or identified participants by the amount of the contribution made to the event. A panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline recommended that no disciplinary sanction be imposed but that Respondent be ordered to pay the costs and a portion of the complainant's attorney fees. A commission of five judges appointed by the Supreme Court upheld that panel's judgment and ordered Respondent to pay a $1,000 fine, the costs of the proceeding, and a greater portion of attorney fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Respondent did not knowingly violate Jud. Cond. R. 4.4(E) and, even if Respondent's conduct constituted a technical violation of the rule, no sanction would be warranted in this case. View "In re Judicial Campaign Complaint Against Stormer" on Justia Law

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Snyder, admitted to the bar in 1996, allegedly committed 18 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, including charging excessive and nonrefundable fees. Snyder operated SPLS, a foreclosure-defense firm with “of counsel” relationships with out-of-state attorneys. Snyder shared office space with PIC, a business that provided paralegal and support services for Snyder, including interacting with clients on the phone, compiling information, and contacting lenders regarding mitigation options. PIC contracted with a marketing firm that attracted potential clients by sending solicitation letters to homeowners who were behind in mortgage payments. Snyder would enter into an agreement with the client that provided for a flat fee that was deemed earned in full upon the opening of the file. The cost of representation ranged from $1,595 to $2,295; $200 to $500 would be sent to the attorney outside of Ohio who was listed as “of counsel.” Snyder retained $300 for each client, with the balance going to PIC for its services. A panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline concluded that three violations had been proven and recommended dismissal of the others. The board adopted the panel’s findings and recommendation of a public reprimand. No objections were filed. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed. View "Geauga Cnty. Bar Ass'n v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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In 2006, a jury convicted Appenzeller on18 felony counts. The trial court sentenced him to an aggregate term of 28 years in prison. The appeals court affirmed in part and remanded for merging of certain offenses and resentencing. The trial court again imposed a sentence of an aggregate term of 28 years in prison. The appeals court affirmed. Appenzeller unsuccessfully sought post-conviction relief based primarily on a claim that he was denied due process and equal protection when there was a break in the chain of custody of the trial transcript in his direct appeal. The alleged break occurred when Appenzeller’s own appellate attorney checked out the transcript to prepare his brief. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed the petition, finding no violation of court rules or of constitutional rights. View "Appenzeller v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Canton attorney Oberholtzer, admitted to the bar in 1989, was charged with client neglect in two family-law matters in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), 1.15(c), 8.4(d), and 8.4(h). Oberholtzer was nonresponsive and failed to cooperate in the investigation of both matters. After a hearing, a panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline recommended dismissing a charged trust-account violation, but otherwise found violations and recommended suspension from the practice of law for 12 months, with the entire suspension if Oberholtzer fully cooperates with a monitoring attorney, appointed by disciplinary counsel, for the entire period of suspension, and completes a three-hour continuing-legal-education course on law-office management. Neither party filed objections. The Ohio Supreme Court adopted the recommendation. View "Disciplinary Counsel v. Oberholtzer" on Justia Law

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Taubman, admitted to the Ohio bar in 1976, admitted to professional misconduct for negligently withdrawing settlement proceeds held in a client guardianship account for his personal use in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(a) and 8.4(h). The parties stipulated that no aggravating factors existed and to the absence of a prior disciplinary record, a timely good-faith effort to rectify the misconduct, full and free disclosure to the board and a cooperative attitude toward the disciplinary proceedings, and Taubman’s good character or reputation. The parties agreed that a stayed six-month suspension was the appropriate sanction; the board recommended adoption of the consent-to-discipline agreement. The Ohio Supreme Court adopted the agreement. View "Disciplinary Counsel v. Taubman" on Justia Law