Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Ohio Supreme Court

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Ten valuation complaints were filed by a salaried employee on behalf of a corporate entity as the property owner. In each case, the county board of revision (BOR) ordered a decrease in value. The school board argued before the board of tax appeals (BTA) that the original complaints should be dismissed because a salaried employee of the corporation who was not himself a lawyer but purported to act on behalf of the corporate owner signed the complaints. The school board acknowledged that Ohio Rev. Code 5715.19(A)(1) explicitly authorizes salaried corporate employees to file on behalf of the corporate owner but argued that the statute cannot be given effect because that kind of filing constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. The BTA granted the school board's motion and ordered that the appeals be remanded to the BOR to be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the complaints properly invoked the jurisdiction of the BOR where the legislature acted within its authority in amending section 5715.19(A)(1) to permit a salaried employee of a corporation who is not a lawyer to file a complaint on behalf of the corporation. Remanded. View "Marysville Exempted Village Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Union County Bd. of Revision" on Justia Law

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Counsel for Defendants filed an affidavit with the clerk of the Supreme Court seeking to disqualify Judge Wyatt McKay from presiding over any further proceedings in the underlying case, alleging that the judge's rulings created the appearance of bias or prejudice against Defendants. The Supreme Court denied the affidavit of disqualification, holding (1) the extraordinary circumstances need to subject the judge to disqualification after having presided over lengthy proceedings in the case were not present here; (2) counsel pointed to no action on the part of Judge McKay that demonstrated bias, prejudice, or a disqualifying interest; and (3) counsel failed to overcome the presumptions that the judge followed the law and was not biased. View "In re Disqualification of McKay" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff in the underlying complaint filed an affidavit seeking to disqualify Judge Thomas Pokorny from presiding over any further proceedings in her pending case. Plaintiff argued that the judge should be disqualified because (1) Plaintiff had moved to add Judge Pokorny as a defendant in a federal civil action she had filed, (2) the judge was conspiring to deny Plaintiff her right to defend herself and to conceal material facts, (3) the judge was biased against women and pro se litigants, and (4) the judge had scheduled a hearing on Defendant's motion for summary judgment on its counterclaim to declare Plaintiff a vexatious litigator. The Supreme Court denied the affidavit of disqualification, holding (1) naming the judge as a defendant in Plaintiff's federal case did not automatically lead to his disqualification in the underlying state court proceeding; (2) Plaintiff failed to substantiate her claims that the judge was conspiring against her or that the judge was biased against female and pro se litigants; and (3) the fact that the judge scheduled a hearing on Defendant's motion for summary judgment was not grounds for disqualification. View "In re Disqualification of Pokorny" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death action against Defendants. Counsel for Defendants filed affidavits with the clerk of the Supreme Court seeking to disqualify Judge Frank Forchione from presiding over further proceedings in the pending case, alleging that Judge Forchione was prejudiced in favor of Plaintiff because he granted Plaintiff's motion to strike Defendants' jury demand and because the judge lacked judicial objectivity. The Supreme Court denied the affidavits of disqualification, holding (1) rulings that are adverse to a party in a pending case are not grounds for disqualification; and (2) the record did not demonstrate the judge was partial to Plaintiff or that he had a bias against Defendants or their counsel. View "In re Disqualification of Forchione" on Justia Law

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Defendant in the underlying proceeding sought to disqualify Judge Ralph Winkler from presiding over any further proceedings in his case, pending for a resentencing hearing in the court of common pleas. Defendant argued, among other things, that Judge Winkler should be disqualified from resentencing him because he made "biased and prejudiced" comments about him at his initial sentencing. The Supreme Court granted the affidavit of disqualification and ordered that Judge Winkler participate no further in the underlying proceeding, as the nature and extent of Judge Winkler's comments, along with the other facts in the record, made it necessary to remove Judge Winkler to "avoid even an appearance of bias, prejudice, or impropriety, and to ensure the parties, their counsel, and the public the unquestioned neutrality of an impartial judge." View "In re Disqualification of Winkler" on Justia Law

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Respondent was a candidate for judge of the fifth district court of appeals of Ohio for the six-year term beginning February 11, 2013. Respondent won in the primary election but lost in the general election. A five-member judicial commission appointed by the Supreme Court concluded that the record before a hearing panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline supported the panel's finding that Respondent violated several provisions of Canon 4 of the Code of Judicial Conduct during her campaign by using campaign flyers depicting Respondent wearing a judicial robe. The Supreme Court agreed with the commission that the finding of professional misconduct was supported by the record and affirmed the sanctions imposed by the commission of a $1000 fine and $2500 in attorney fees. View "In re Moll" on Justia Law

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Law Firm filed a verified petition for a writ of mandamus to compel Housing Authority to provide copies of all records that documented any and all instances of lead poisoning in the last fifteen years in any dwelling owned or operated by Housing Authority. The court of appeals (1) granted Law Firm's motion for summary judgment regarding the request for lead-poisoning documents and ordered Housing Authority to produce the documents, and (2) granted $7,537 in attorney fees to Law Firm. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) to the extent that Law Firm's request properly sought the lead-poisoning records, the court of appeals did not err in granting the writ of mandamus to compel Housing Authority to provide access to them; (2) the personal identifying information in Housing Authority's lead-poisoning documents was not obtainable under the Public Records Act, but the remainder of the completed forms was subject to disclosure; and (3) the court of appeals erred in awarding attorney fees to Law Firm. Remanded. View "State ex rel. O'Shea & Assocs. Co., L.P.A. v. Cuyahoga Metro. Hous. Auth." on Justia Law

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Appellant Raleigh Striker filed a pro se complaint in the court of appeals for a writ of mandamus to compel Respondents, the clerk and the city of Shelby, to make certain records available for inspection and copying under the Ohio Public Records Act. The court of appeals denied Striker's request. Respondents subsequently filed a motion for sanctions against Striker, claiming that Striker had engaged in frivolous conduct in the public-relations mandamus case. The court of appeals awarded the clerk $3,503 in attorney fees as sanctions pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 2323.51 for responding to Striker's frivolous assertions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion in awarding the clerk attorney fees for Striker's frivolous conduct because (1) the court properly determined that Striker had engaged in frivolous conduct that would authorize an award of reasonable attorney fees against him pursuant to section 2323.51, and (2) the reasonable fees incurred as a result of Striker's frivolous assertions were $3,503.

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Richard Haig, a loan officer who was not an attorney, prepared pleadings that his customers filed in two foreclosure cases before the court of common pleas. Relator, the county bar association, charged that Haig committed the unauthorized practice of law and recommended injunctive relief. The Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law concluded that Haig's actions voilated Ohio's licensure requirements. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Haig engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The Court enjoined Haig from any future conduct constituting the authorized practice of law, including the preparation of legal documents for others, but did not impose a civil penalty in light of Haig's cooperation with the investigation of his misconduct and his apparent lack of awareness that his conduct was improper.