Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition and denied a requested writ of mandamus in this original action by WBNS 10-TV, Inc. against Franklin County Common Pleas Domestic Relations Court Judge Monica Hawkins, holding that prohibition was the proper vehicle to challenge the order denying courtroom access to 10-TV that was issued by Judge Hawkins without an evidentiary hearing and that this decision rendered moot 10-TV's alternative request for a writ of mandamus. After Judge Hawkins was arrested for driving under the influence a reporter for 10-TV made a written request for media access to the proceedings in Judge Hawkins's courtroom scheduled for that same day. Judge Hawkins denied the request without conducting the required closure hearing. 10-TV then commenced an original action seeking writs of prohibition and mandamus. In response, Judge Hawkins agreed that a writ of prohibition should issue. The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition, denied the request for a writ of mandamus as moot, and denied the requests in 10-TV's emergency motion for peremptory writs of prohibition and mandamus as moot. View "State ex rel. WBNS 10-TV, Inc. v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a peremptory writ prohibiting Judge Thomas O'Diam of the probate division of the Greene County Court of Common Pleas from enforcing his orders concerning the control of Courtroom 3 in the Greene County Courthouse and prohibiting Judge O'Diam from entering additional orders relating to the dispute over the control of Courtroom 3, holding that Judge O'Diam acted beyond his authority in issuing his orders requiring the Greene County Board of Commissioners to designate Courtroom 3 as the probate-division's courtroom. During this dispute, Courtroom 3 was under the control of the General Division of the Greene County Court of Common Pleas. Judge O'Diam ordered the Board to designate Courtroom 3 as the probate division's courtroom and to provide the probate division exclusive use of the room three days a week. The Board and Greene County sought a writ prohibiting the judge from enforcing his orders. In a related case, Judge O'Diam sought a writ of mandamus to enforce his orders. The Supreme Court granted a peremptory writ of prohibition with the qualification that its issuance was without prejudice to Judge O'Diam's claim that he was entitled to have the County pay his attorney fees and litigation expenses related to defending and attempting to enforce his orders. View "State ex rel. Greene County Board of Commissioners v. O'Diam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court adopted the findings of the Board of Professional Conduct that Judge Robert Nathaniel Rusu Jr., the Mahoning County Probate Court judge, violated several rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct and publicly reprimanded Rusu for his misconduct. The Board found that Rusu's conduct of presiding over cases in which Judge Rusu previously served as an attorney of record and failed to take reasonable steps to protect his clients' interests after terminating his representation violated Jud.Cond.4. 1.2 and 2.11(A) and Prof.Cond.R. 1.16(d). The Supreme Court adopted the Board's findings and, after considering the misconduct, the mitigating factors, and the sanctions imposed for comparable misconduct, agreed that public reprimand was the appropriate sanction. View "Disciplinary Counsel v. Rusu" on Justia Law

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From 2008-2015, Mason was a judge on the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas. In 2014, Mason assaulted his estranged wife in a moving car, with their children (ages four and six) in the backseat, then drove off, leaving her on the ground. His wife sustained severe harm to her head, face, and neck, including an orbital blowout fracture under her eye, and required surgery. Mason pled guilty to attempted felonious assault, a third-degree felony, and domestic violence, a first-degree misdemeanor. Mason was removed as a judge, was incarcerated, and settled his wife's civil suit for $150,000. The Board of Professional Conduct found that Mason violated Jud.Cond.R. 1.2 (a judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety); Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(a) (a lawyer shall not violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct), 8.4(b) (a lawyer shall not commit an illegal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty or trustworthiness), and 8.4(h) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law). After weighing aggravating and mitigating factors, the Board recommended disbarment. The Supreme Court of Ohio agreed that Mason committed the violations but imposed an indefinite suspension with added conditions for reinstatement., noting noted that the attack was not premeditated or part of a pattern of behavior. View "Ohio State Bar Association v. Mason" on Justia Law

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Century Negotiations, Inc. engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by conducting debt-settlement negotiations on behalf of Ohio consumers, as charged by the Ohio State Bar Association. The Board found that Century Negotiations engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by conducting debt-settlement negotiations for more than 3,000 Ohio customers. The Board concluded that no civil penalty was warranted because the company, inter alia, agreed not to engage in the unauthorized practice of law in the future. The Supreme Court adopted the Board’s findings and recommendation and issued an injunction prohibiting Century Negotiations from engaging in further conduct that constitutes the practice of law in Ohio. View "Ohio State Bar Ass’n v. Century Negotiations, Inc." on Justia Law

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Home Advocate Trustees, LLC (HAT) engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by providing legal counsel to Ohio residents whose Ohio real property was in foreclosure, as charged in a complaint by the Ohio State Bar Association. A panel of the Board of Commissioners on the Unauthorized Practice of law granted default judgment against HAT and recommended that the Supreme Court issue an injunction prohibiting HAT from engaging in further acts of the unauthorized practice of law and impose a civil penalty. The Board adopted the panel’s findings and recommendation. The Supreme Court adopted the Board’s findings of fact and determination that HAT engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, adopted the Board’s recommendation that an injunction prohibiting HAT from attempting to represent the legal interests of others performing legal services in Ohio, and agreed that HAT’s conduct warranted the imposition of civil penalties. View "Ohio State Bar Ass'n v. Home Advocate Trustees, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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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