Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Columbus Attorney Disbarred

The Supreme Court of Ohio has permanently disbarred Columbus attorney Jeffrey Lee Terbeek for misappropriating to his own use funds he held in escrow for an individual who sold a business to Terbeek’s client.

In a 7-0 per curiam (not assigned to a specific justice) decision, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that after holding in escrow for several years $15,000 entrusted to him by a client as payment for a tailoring business the client was purchasing, Terbeek withdrew those funds from his law office trust account and converted them to his personal use.

When the person to whom the funds were payable later filed suit against Terbeek and his client, Terbeek’s answer to the complaint stated that the conditions necessary for his release of the funds had not been met, concealing the fact that the funds were no longer in his trust account.  After Terbeek subsequently failed to respond to discovery requests by the opposing party or to appear at court proceedings in the case, the court entered judgment against him for $15,000 plus interest, $2,500 in attorney fees, and sanctions of $750. 

After failing to appear at a scheduled judgment-debtor examination, Terbeek appeared at a show-cause hearing and admitted that he had taken the escrowed funds for his personal use. As of the court’s latest information, Terbeek had not paid any portion of the judgment.

Despite being served with the attorney discipline complaint filed against him as a result of his admitted misappropriation, Terbeek failed to file an answer or otherwise cooperate with the investigation of his misconduct, forcing the board  to prosecute the case against him through default proceedings.

In today’s decision the court affirmed the board’s findings that Terbeek was guilty of violating the state disciplinary rules that require attorneys to hold funds belonging to clients separate from the attorney’s own funds, and that prohibit an attorney from engaging in conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and conduct that adversely reflects on the attorney’s fitness to practice law. 

Finding that Terbeek’s misconduct was aggravated by the factors that he acted with a dishonest motive,  failed to cooperate in the disciplinary process, and failed to make restitution, the court adopted the board’s recommendation that the appropriate sanction was permanent disbarment.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

2012-2056. Disciplinary Counsel v. Terbeek, Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-1912.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 12-047.  Jeffrey Lee Terbeek, Attorney Registration No. 0033227, is permanently disbarred from the practice of law in Ohio.
O’Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, O’Donnell, Lanzinger, Kennedy, French, and O’Neill, JJ., concur.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2013/2013-Ohio-1912.pdf

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