What to do when Ohio attorneys are unethical


Melissa Martin, Ph.D.



Individuals hire attorneys to correct wrongs and make things right. But, what do you do when your attorney lies, cheats or steals?

“The Supreme Court of Ohio regulates the conduct of lawyers and judges through the Rules of Professional Conduct and a Code of Judicial Conduct. Ohio lawyers and judges must obey their oaths of office and the rules outlined in the Codes. These Codes include ethical standards that each lawyer must follow. If a person believes a lawyer or judge has violated their respective codes, they have the right to file a grievance against that lawyer or judge,” according to Ohio State Bar Association. www.ohiobar.org.

Although the Grievance Committee of the Ohio State Bar Association investigates grievances against judges and magistrates, it also investigates attorneys concerning certain issues of violation. Their address is 1700 Lake Shore Drive, Columbus.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) and 32 certified grievance committees are authorized to receive, investigate and prosecute grievances against Ohio lawyers. You may contact the ODC at 250 Civic Center Drive, Suite 325, Columbus. See website for phone numbers. www.supremecourt.ohio.gov.

An Ohio lawyer is not allowed to: knowingly mislead or lie to a client or a court; reveal a client’s confidence or secret without the client’s permission; misuse or take money or property that belongs to a client; settle, file or dismiss a case without the client’s permission; repeatedly neglect a client’s legal problems after the lawyer has agreed to represent the client. Failure to Maintain Funds in Trust appears to be a consistent violation and statistics for Ohio can be reviewed on the ODC website.

“Malpractice lawsuits require a client to sue the lawyer within one year. If you wish to file a malpractice claim against a lawyer, you should immediately consult with a different lawyer about the one-year limitation and the damages you believe you have suffered,” according to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

To review Ohio attorneys with issued sanctions (reprimands, suspensions, disbarments, resignations with disciplinary action pending) by the Supreme Court of Ohio visit the ODC website.

Decisions by the Supreme Court of Ohio on Reports Submitted by the Board list names of attorneys and actions taken from 1995 to 2017.

For example, in 2017, [Disciplinary Counsel v. Furtado, 152 Ohio St.3d 139, 2017-Ohio-9109] unauthorized practice of law. “Preparing or modifying multiple estate-planning documents after resigning from practice of law with disciplinary action pending — Respondent permanently enjoined from practice of law — Maximum civil penalty imposed.” www.supremecourt.ohio.gov.

The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct’s online docket contains complete information and most documents for cases filed with the board on or after Jan. 1, 2015. www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/bpccm.

The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection was created in 1985 by Rule VIII of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar. Its purpose is to reimburse losses to legal clients as a result of the dishonest conduct of a licensed Ohio attorney.

The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program provides help to Ohio attorneys with alcoholism, substance abuse, addictive behavior and psychological problems.

Scioto County Information

To file a grievance against an attorney, contact your local bar association. In Scioto County, contact the Portsmouth Bar & Law Library Association, Scioto County Courthouse, 602 Seventh Street, Portsmouth. www.sciotogrievance.com.

Matters received by the Ohio Office of Disciplinary Counsel for Scioto County in 2016 listed 15; 2015 listed 13; 2014 listed 29; and 2013 listed 33.

Note: I am neither an attorney nor providing legal advice. Nonetheless, I want you to know where to find resources and information should your Ohio attorney violate ethical codes.

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Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.

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