Cincinnati Attorney Disbarred
The Supreme Court of Ohio today permanently disbarred Cincinnati attorney Vlad Sigalov for engaging in a pattern of misconduct that included neglect of entrusted legal matters in multiple cases. His clients included foreign nationals who retained Sigalov to represent them in immigration cases. The court found that Sigalov’s misconduct resulted in severe harm to a number of clients, including one case in which Sigalov’s failure to provide competent representation or notify the client of upcoming legal proceedings resulted in the client needlessly spending more than five months in jail.
In a 7-0 per curiam opinion, the court also adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that concluded Sigalov engaged in professional misconduct by improperly accepting settlement offers in several personal injury cases without his clients’ knowledge or consent, cashing settlement checks without the clients’ permission, commingling his personal funds with client funds on deposit in his law office trust account, and making false statements to the clients to cover up the fact that he had settled their cases without their permission.
In imposing disbarment as the appropriate sanction for Sigalov’s disciplinary offenses, the court noted that he engaged in a pattern of misconduct involving multiple rule violations and multiple clients over a period of five years, acted with a selfish or dishonest motive, made false statements and proffered false evidence during the disciplinary process, refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his actions, and caused significant harm to vulnerable clients.
The court wrote: “Much of Sigalov’s misconduct resulted from accepting clients’ fees and then doing little or nothing to earn the fee. Sigalov filed inadequate briefs, pursued incorrect legal action, and routinely neglected cases. He repeatedly lied to clients about the progress or status of their cases and conducted settlement discussions on their cases without their knowledge or consent. ... Russian-speaking immigrants sought out Sigalov because he speaks Russian. Instead of helping them, he took their money and did nothing, leaving them to deal with the consequences, including arrest and detention.”
“Because Sigalov’s clients were immigrants, two of whom barely spoke English, their understanding of the legal process was minimal, and they were forced to rely entirely on Sigalov’s false representations that he was doing what was necessary for their cases. One of Sigalov’s clients was almost deported, and another was unnecessarily incarcerated for five-and-a-half months. ... The egregiousness of Sigalov’s misconduct is plain. But even after the extent of his derelictions was brought to light, he continued to insist that he has done little wrong, going so far as to request that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice.”
“When an attorney engages in multiple wanton acts of misconduct for years, lies to multiple clients about their cases, falsifies documents in a cover-up effort during the disciplinary proceeding, and then denies the wrongful nature of his misconduct, the aggravating factors greatly outweigh those in mitigation. ... The scope and magnitude of Sigalov’s misconduct, encompassing fraud, gross neglect, duplicity, incompetence, and the fleecing of clients, are truly egregious. We have little trouble concluding that nothing less than Sigalov’s disbarment will protect the public and maintain the integrity of the profession.”
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2011-0120. Cincinnati Bar Assn. v. Sigalov, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-3868.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 11-120. Vlad Sigalov, Attorney Registration No. 0070625, is permanently disbarred from the practice of law in Ohio.
O’Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, O’Donnell, Lanzinger, Cupp, and McGee Brown, JJ., concur.
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