Supreme Court of Ohio Granted Permanent Disbarment Due To Attorney’s Failure to Act

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by Legal Fee Advisors

In a June, 2013 decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio, in the case of Disciplinary Counsel v Tomson, 990 NE2d 579 [2013], affirmed permanent disbarment of the attorney, due to violations of the ethical rules.

In this case, disciplinary proceedings were brought against the attorney who failed to pursue a post-conviction relief on behalf of two clients. The attorney was retained by the first client in 2003, and was paid $8,000 to pursue a reopening of his appeal. It took the attorney more than 7 years, and a letter from the relator to file a 7 page long brief, which was denied. During the course of this 7 years long representation, the attorney made several false promises to his client regarding timing of completion of the work and research conducted. The attorney was retained by the second client’s wife in 2004, and was paid $5,200 to file an appeal. Following several false promises, in 2011 a client filed a grievance with the relator. The attorney failed to respond to two certified letters of inquiry that the relator sent.

The court took into account the fact that the attorney accepted retainers from both clients, and deceived them with promises of actions, while failing to perform and leaving his clients in prison for more than 7 years. Moreover, even though the attorney did not have a prior disciplinary record, he failed to cooperate in the investigation.

Though this decision was rendered over a year ago, there is an important lesson to be learned here. This case illustrates the importance of retainer agreements, and the promises that attorneys make. The signed retainer agreement is a contract, and attorneys must perform the contracted work.  Failure of an attorney to be transparent has serious consequences, as does making false promises. Since attorneys are permitted to earn only reasonable value of the services rendered, and the attorney in this case failed to provide the services promised, the court affirmed his permanent disbarment and was required to return all fees received for his work on those cases back to his clients.

Enisa Tutovic

Legal Fee Advisors © 2014

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