Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Ohio Supreme Court opinion suspending a lawyer indefinitely after her conviction for filing false documents with the Internal Revenue Service and falsifying an e-mail in a malpractice action. The disciplinary opinion is Disciplinary Counsel v. Land, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-1162 (March 27, 2014) and the disciplinary opinion is here: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2014/2014-Ohio-1162.pdf
According to the opinion, the lawyer was working at a large law firm and she created and submitted fraudulent documents to the IRS on two separate occasions in 2010 in an attempt to cover up errors that she made in drafting estate planning documents which apparently cost her clients hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax benefits. The lawyer also created an e-mail in early 2010 in an attempt to falsely bolster her credibility in a malpractice lawsuit which alleged that she failed to properly advise the client.
In 2012, the lawyer pled guilty to federal charges of corruptly attempting to obstruct and impede the IRS and was sentenced to five years of probation, including three years of home detention, abstain from alcohol use, and continue mental-health treatment during the probation as long as her probation officer believed that it was necessary and pay penalties of $75,000.00.
Disciplinary charges were filed against the lawyer by the Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. During the disciplinary hearing, the lawyer testified that she felt overwhelmed by pressure from her law firm and the “challenges” to her professional skills and that this pressure led her to greater alcohol consumption and self-medication with anti-anxiety drugs which she purchased over the Internet.
The Ohio Supreme Court opinion adopted the findings of the Ohio discipline board and found that the lawyer engaged in conduct that reflected adversely on her trustworthiness and engaged in deceitful, dishonest, or fraudulent conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and adversely reflected on her fitness to practice law.
The opinion also agreed with the Board’s recommendation that the lawyer be suspended indefinitely from practicing law and that prohibiting any petition for reinstatement until she completes the federal probation. The lawyer must present proof that she has satisfactorily completed, or is in compliance with, her Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program contract and that she has continued to receive treatment from a therapist until the therapist decides it is no longer needed.
Bottom line: “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act. – George Orwell. Hopefully we aren’t in Orwell’s world…yet, but this case again illustrates how a lawyer can seriously compound a mistake and turn it into an elaborate web of deceit and misrepresentation which results in serious allegations and sanctions. Again, if a lawyer makes a mistake, it is always better to admit it and accept the consequences instead of potentially making things far worse by covering it up. If this had been in Florida (or many other states), the sanctions may (or would) have been much more severe and possibly disbarment.
Please be careful out there!
Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670