Former Columbus Attorney Indefinitely Suspended
In a 7-0 per curiam decision announced today, the Supreme Court of Ohio imposed an indefinite suspension against the law license of former Columbus attorney Stephen M. Weiss, who currently resides in Sarasota, Fla.
The court adopted findings by its Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that in January 2006, after representing a client in a personal injury case, Weiss received and deposited in his client trust account a settlement check from the defendant’s insurance company for $98,580. Pursuant to his fee agreement with the client, Weiss was entitled to a contingent fee of 33 percent of the settlement or $32,860. Instead of distributing the remaining proceeds of $65,720 to his client and his creditors, however, Weiss made payments to the client and two medical service providers totaling only $29,386, kept the remainder of the settlement, and did not return the client’s phone calls requesting payment of the balance he was owed.
After attempting unsuccessfully to communicate with Weiss for more than two years, the client hired another attorney to assist him in collecting the remainder of the settlement proceeds. Finding that Weiss was no longer at the address or phone number listed in his Ohio attorney registration record, the new attorney retained a private investigator. Weiss was eventually found and contacted in Florida, but failed to respond to repeated messages requesting that he return the case file and make a full accounting of the settlement funds. Weiss also failed to respond to initial contacts from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel based on a grievance filed by the client. When he did respond, he failed to provide any of the requested information or otherwise cooperate with disciplinary authorities.
Based on sworn testimony by the victim and his collections attorney, and information obtained through a subpoena of Weiss’ bank records, the board conducted default proceedings and concluded that Weiss had violated multiple state disciplinary rules including those that require an attorney to promptly pay or deliver funds to which a client is entitled, and that prohibit conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation; conduct that reflects adversely on an attorney’s fitness to practice law, and failure to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation.
In addition to imposing an indefinite suspension of Weiss’ license, the court also ordered Weiss to make restitution to his client of $36,333.93 within the next 30 days.
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2012-0314. Disciplinary Counsel v. Weiss, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-4564.
On certified report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 11-090. Stephen Michael Weiss, Attorney Registration No. 0017566, is indefinitely suspended 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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