Category Archives: Lawyer sanctions

Ohio lawyer sentenced to 30 days in jail for pleading that “was an attempt to mislead the court, obstruct justice and prejudice the administration of justice”

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Court Order imposing a 30 day jail sentence on an Ohio lawyer, who is general counsel to Bowling Green State University (BGSU), for, inter alia, filing a pleading that “was an attempt to mislead the court, obstruct justice and prejudice the administration of justice”. The case is Fitzgerald vs. Fitzgerald, Case No. 2017DR0012.  The April 4, 2019 Order and Notice of Appeal are here: https://images.law.com/contrib/content/uploads/documents/292/April-5-Wood-County-decision.pdf (PDF of Order courtesy of Law.com)

According to media reports, the lawyer is employed as BGSU’s general counsel and vice president, and was representing himself in a divorce proceeding from his wife in the Wood County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court Domestic Relations Division.  He was sentenced to 30 days in jail to begin on April 8, 2019 after a series of incidents during the proceedings.  He was then placed on paid leave by the university and he was also suspended from an appointment as an assistant attorney general through that position.

According to the Order, the lawyer objected to an attorney fee request filed by a lawyer who was representing one of his sons and told the judge he would be filing a grievance against that lawyer.  The Order states that “The Court finds that (the lawyer) was untruthful.  He claims to have filed a grievance against Mr. Mohler.  That was not true, no grievance was filed.  His pleading was an attempt to mislead the court, obstruct justice and prejudice the administration of justice.  Such a grievance, if true, would “impede of eliminate Mr. Mohler from representing his client.  This situation is magnified by the fact that Mr. Mohler has practiced before courts across Ohio, including this one, with calming superior legal skills, cogent writing and impeccable integrity. If Mr. FitzGerald had a grievance, he is duty bound to file it. He did not do so.”

“By his pleadings, e-mails and exhibits, Mr. FitzGerald has, at the least, been unprofessional toward the magistrate, Ms. Heringhaus; his former lawyer, Ms. Shope; the Guardian ad Litem, Ms.Cox; and his opposing counsel, Ms.Engwert-Loyd. During the last telephone pretrial, Mr. FitzGerald attacked Ms. Engwert-Loyd twice.”  The judge also found that the pleading violated the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and referred the matter to the Ohio disciplinary authorities.  The lawyer appealed the Order to the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.

Bottom line: this lawyer apparently engaged in the misconduct while representing himself in a divorce proceeding from his spouse.  Notwithstanding the old adage that “he (or she) who represents him or herself has a —- for a client”, according to the Order, he attacked another lawyer who the judge “had practiced before courts across Ohio with calming superior legal skills, cogent writing and impeccable integrity.”

Be careful out there.

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or may need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding ethics, risk management, or other issues, do not hesitate to contact me.

My law firm focuses on review, analysis, and interpretation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, advice and representation of lawyers in Bar disciplinary matters, defense of applicants for admission to The Florida Bar before the Board of Bar Examiners, defense of all Florida licensed professionals in discipline and admission matters before all state agencies and boards, expert ethics opinions, and practice management for lawyers and law firms.  If there is a lawyer or other Florida professional license involved, I can defend the complaint or help you get your license. 

If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (727) 799-1688 or e-mail me at jcorsmeier@jac-law.com.  You can find my law firm on the web at www.jac-law.com. In addition to handling individual cases, matters, problems and issues for my clients, I also am on retainer to provide ethics advice to numerous lawyers and law firms throughout the state of Florida.  I also provide legal assistance and advice to numerous individuals and non-legal entities to help insure compliance with the law and rules related to UPL and other issues.

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Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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.

29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeier

about.me/corsmeierethicsblogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer bad conduct, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer misconduct jail sentence, Lawyer sanctions, Lawyer threatening Bar complaint, Lawyer threatening disciplinary charge, Lawyer threats and discipline, Uncategorized

Ohio lawyer suspended for 1 year for engaging in “extreme, obnoxious, and humiliating attacks” on paralegal for over 2 years is reinstated to practice

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Ohio Supreme Court reinstating a lawyer who was suspended for 1 year for “extreme, obnoxious, and humiliating attacks” on a paralegal lasting over 2 years. The case is Disciplinary Counsel v. Skolnick, No. 2018-OHIO-2990. The 8/1/18 suspension opinion is here: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2018/2018-Ohio-2990.pdf and the 3/11/19 reinstatement Order is here: https://supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2019/2019-ohio-821.pdf

The August 1, 2018 Ohio Supreme Court opinion suspending the lawyer described the lawyer’s conduct as follows: “(d)uring (the paralegal’s) two-and a-half year tenure, Skolnick berated her for her physical appearance, dress, education, and parenting skills. He called her a bitch, a ‘hoe’, a dirtbag, and a piece of shit, and he told her that he hoped she would die. And because (the paralegal) recorded her interactions with Skolnick on more than 30 occasions, we have had the opportunity to hear Skolnick’s outbursts for ourselves.”

“In addition, the lawyer ‘called (the paralegal) stupid, dumb, fat, ‘whorey,’ and bitch.’ Further, he remarked that she should give him ‘road head’ during a drive and falsely told an African American client that the paralegal “did not like black people.”

“The only explanation that Skolnick offered for his extreme, obnoxious, and humiliating attacks on L.D. was that he had learned the lingo from rappers and hip-hop artists while practicing entertainment law and that he believed he was using the phrases in more of a humorous than a harmful way.” In addition, “(a)lthough (the lawyer) presented some evidence that he had been diagnosed with and was being treated for cyclothymic disorder and exhibited traits of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, the board declined to afford mitigating effect to those conditions because Skolnick did not present any evidence that they were causally related to his misconduct.”

The opinion found that the lawyer violated Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(h), prohibiting a lawyer from “engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law” and suspended the lawyer for one (1) year with the final 6 months deferred; however, on March 11, 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court reinstated the lawyer. “On application for reinstatement by respondent, Howard Evan Skolnick, Attorney Registration No. 0061905, last known business address in Cleveland, Ohio. Application granted. Howard Evan Skolnick reinstated to the practice of law in Ohio.”

Bottom line: this lawyer engaged in extreme, obnoxious, and humiliating attacks” on his paralegal and tried to minimize and justify his conduct by claiming that he learned the “lingo” from “rappers and hip-hop artists” and was being treated for psychiatric disorders. The court imposed a 1 year suspension with the final 6 months deferred on August 1, 2018 and he was reinstated on March 11, 2019, approximately 7 months later.

Be careful out there.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150
Clearwater, Florida 33761
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670
jcorsmeier@jac-law.com
http://www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeier
about.me/corsmeierethicsblogs

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer cumulative misconduct disruptive and obnoxiousl behavior, Lawyer derogatory remarks, Lawyer disbarment obnoxious and disruptive cumulative misconduct, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions, Uncategorized

New York lawyer suspended for lying to law firm about brief filings and drafting fake brief and e-mails to support false statements

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent suspension of a New York law firm associate lawyer who lied about filing briefs and drafted a fake brief and created false e-mails to support his false statements.  The disciplinary opinion is: Matter of McCoobery, 2019 NY Slip Op 00843, Appellate Division, First Department (2/5/18).  The link to the opinion is here:  http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_00843.htm

According to the opinion, in one matter, a firm partner asked the lawyer to draft an appellate opposition brief.  The lawyer wrote and filed the brief without providing it to the partner for review and, when the partner asked to see a draft, the lawyer provided the filed brief to the partner and falsely stated that it was a draft. The partner made revisions to the brief and later discovered that the brief had already been filed.

In the other matter, the partner told the lawyer to send an appellate brief and the record on appeal to the law firm’s printing vendor and to instruct the vendor to serve and file the documents. The lawyer sent the brief and documents to the vendor, but failed to ask for service and filing.

The lawyer also falsely told the partner that he had given the instructions to the vendor and, to cover up the false statements, the lawyer falsely told the partner that he and the opposing counsel had stipulated to an extension for filing the brief.  The lawyer also fabricated an opposition brief and provided it to the partner and falsified e-mails to make it appear that he had received the brief from opposing counsel. As a result, the partner drafted a reply brief.

The opinion further states that the lawyer:

“falsely told the partner that the client’s appeal was calendared for this Court’s June 2017 term. On May 1, 2017, when this Court released its June 2017 calendar, the client’s appeal was not on it.  After noticing the appeal had not been calendared, the partner told respondent he was going to call opposing counsel to find out why the appeal had not been calendared.  Respondent then admitted to the partner that he failed to inform the printing vendor to serve and file the subject documents and admitted his deceptions. On May 2, 2017, respondent tendered his resignation from the firm.”

The lawyer stipulated to the facts and consented to a 3 month suspension.  The opinion stated that the lawyer’s misconduct occurred while he was dealing with his father’s terminal illness and death, he had no previous discipline in more than 20 years of practicing law, and no clients suffered “irreparable” harm.

Bottom line:  In this case, an associate lawyer at a law firm filed a brief without a partner’s review and lied about it, failed to insure that another brief was filed and lied about that, and then drafted a fake brief and falsified e-mails to cover up his misconduct.   Although the opinion states that there was no “irreparable” harm to any clients, I do not know how the failure to file a brief would not result in “irreparable” client harm.

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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.

29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeier

about.me/corsmeierethicsblogs

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, dishonesty, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer discipline lying to law firm suspension, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions

Disbarred Georgia lawyer convicted of stealing client money and scheduled to enter prison allegedly killed his mother and fled

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent voluntary disbarment of a Georgia lawyer convicted of stealing thousands of dollars of client money and schedule to enter prison, who allegedly stabbed his mother to death and fled the area.  The disciplinary case is: In the Matter of Richard v. Merritt, 302 Ga. 874 (1/29/18).  The link to the disbarment Order is here:  https://www.gasupreme.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/s18y0387.pdf

According to media reports, the Georgia lawyer was convicted of stealing thousands of dollars of client’s money and was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 15 years of probation after being convicted of stealing money from his clients and elder abuse. The lawyer was found guilty on more than 30 counts of theft, forgery and elder exploitation and given until the end of the day on February 1, 2019 to surrender and begin serving the sentence.

The lawyer had admitted to settling civil lawsuits on his clients’ behalf without their knowledge, forging signatures on settlement checks and documents, and keeping money intended for his clients.  As a condition of the sentencing, the lawyer was also ordered to pay $454,706.00 in restitution to clients.

The lawyer failed to surrender to enter prison on February 1, 2019 and, the day after the lawyer was required to surrender, his mother was found stabbed to death. Her car was also missing and the lawyer’s vehicle was found at the scene.  According to a statement by the U.S. Marshall’s Service: “The vehicle he may be driving is a 2009 silver Lexus RX350, bearing a Georgia tag CBV 6004.”  “He may have shaved his head or otherwise changed his appearance, and should be considered armed and dangerous. Do not try to engage him. If you see Merritt, please contact law enforcement immediately.”

According to the January 29, 2019 Georgia Supreme Court Order disbarring the lawyer after he filed a petition to voluntarily surrender his license, “(the lawyer) admits that in February 2017 he settled a client’s personal injury matter for $75,000, but failed to promptly disburse those funds to his client or her medical providers and failed to render a full accounting of the funds to his client. Merritt acknowledges that the above-described conduct violated Rule 1.15 (I) (c) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct found in Bar Rule 4-102 (d). The maximum penalty for a single violation of Rule 1.15 (I) is disbarment.”

Bottom line:  This is quite a bizarre and unsettling case where a lawyer chose to steal thousands of dollars from his clients, was then convicted of the thefts and sentenced to 15 years in prison, and apparently killed his mother and has now fled at the time that he was scheduled to surrender and enter prison.

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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.

29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeier

about.me/corsmeierethicsblogs

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer disbarment, Lawyer disbarment theft of client funds, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer misappropriation, Lawyer resignation in lieu of discipline/disbarment, Lawyer sanctions

Louisiana lawyer is suspended after criminal battery conviction for chest bumping a prosecutor

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary opinion which suspended a lawyer after he was convicted of misdemeanor battery for chest bumping a criminal prosecutor.  The disciplinary case is: In Re: Felix DeJean, IV, NO. 2018-B-133 (1/30/18) and the link to the case is here:  http://www.lasc.org/opinions/2019/18-1333.B.OPN.pdf

According to the opinion, the incident occurred in March 2015 after a conference in a criminal case in the judge’s chambers. The criminal prosecutor alleged that the lawyer exchanged words with him, physically confronted him, and “chest bumped” him. The lawyer claimed that the prosecutor started the altercation and that he was acting in self-defense.

The incident led to a criminal charge of simple battery against the lawyer. The prosecutor testified at the trial, along with several other witnesses, including the judge, the judicial assistant, and the court reporter. The lawyer was found guilty in July 2016 and received a suspended jail sentence along with 18 months of supervised probation that required him to complete an anger management program.  Before the criminal trial, the lawyer had filed a civil suit for damages against the prosecutor related the incident and, according to the opinion, that lawsuit was still pending.

A Louisiana disciplinary hearing committee recommended a six-month suspension; however, after review, the Louisiana  disciplinary board had recommended the year-and-a-day suspension.  The Supreme Court opinion suspended the lawyer for a year and a day and the length of the suspension means that the lawyer will be required to apply for reinstatement and show his fitness to practice after the suspension is completed.

The opinion found that the lawyer violated Louisiana Bar Rules which prohibit the commission a criminal acts that reflect adversely on a lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.  The opinion also stated that the evidence supported the findings of a violation of the Louisiana Bar Rules and, although the lawyer’s conduct “caused no actual physical harm, it did impair the public reputation of the profession and the judicial system.”

The opinion further noted that this was the third time that the lawyer had been accused of violating the disciplinary rules due to overly aggressive or physically abusive behavior.  The lawyer’s prior disciplinary history is as follows: he consented to a two-year probation in 2006 for behavior caused by mental health issues and previous use of marijuana and alcohol, he was twice admonished by the disciplinary board in 2009 for failing to properly address fee disputes with clients, he agreed to a public reprimand in 2010 for relying on the “false representations of his client and (failing) to verify the identity of the parties who appeared before him” for a “notarial renunciation” and the lawyer received a public reprimand in 2013 for acting in an abusive and threatening manner during a settlement conference.

Bottom line:  This is another (somewhat strange) disciplinary case involving a lawyer who was disciplined for engaging in overly aggressive behavior, in this case, an unwanted chest bump and a criminal battery conviction.  Chest bumps may now be acceptable at sports events or on other occasions, but not as unwanted touching in a courthouse.  Things we learned in kindergarten…

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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.

29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeier

about.me/corsmeierethicsblogs

 

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer discipline criminal conviction battery chest bump, Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions