Three Attorneys Suspended From Practicing Law
In three disciplinary cases, the Ohio Supreme Court today suspended three attorneys for violating rules of professional conduct.
Michigan and Chagrin Falls attorneys suspended indefinitely
The court ordered indefinite suspensions in two of the cases:
In 2011, attorney Asad Sadallah Farah, whose last known address is in Michigan, failed to submit a settlement agreement in an Ohio client’s visitation rights case. The trial court dismissed the case, and the client had to refile the case with new counsel. The Toledo Bar Association filed a complaint with the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline. Although Farah never answered the complaint or appeared in the disciplinary proceedings, the board determined that he committed multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Farah is currently serving a one-year suspension, imposed by the Supreme Court early this year in another matter. Given Farah’s conduct in the visitation case, his prior disciplinary offense, and his failure to cooperate in the disciplinary process, the court, in its 7-0 per curiam (not authored by one justice) decision, adopted the board’s recommendation suspending Farah’s Ohio law license indefinitely. The indefinite suspension will run consecutively to Farah’s earlier one-year suspension.
In a 5-2 per curiam opinion, the court indefinitely suspended the law license of Chagrin Falls attorney John J. Gruttadaurio for multiple violations of professional conduct rules in two client matters. The court found that although Gruttadaurio had agreed to handle a client’s criminal appeal for a flat fee, he failed to assume the representation, failed to orally argue the case before the appellate court, and failed to file an appeal in the Ohio Supreme Court. He also did not refund any portion of his flat fee. In a separate domestic relations matter, Gruttadaurio failed to appear at the final hearing. He also mishandled his clients’ payments and didn’t advise them he had no malpractice insurance. Despite the board’s recommendation that allegations of dishonesty and knowingly making false statements of fact be dismissed, the court found that Gruttadaurio committed those violations when he knowingly lied throughout the disciplinary proceedings about mailing certain legal documents to the Supreme Court and calling to check on their status. These additional violations, the court said, warranted the indefinite suspension, a harsher sanction than the board’s recommended two-year suspension with 18 months stayed on conditions.
The majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French.
Justices Paul E. Pfeifer and William M. O’Neill dissented, stating they would adopt the board’s recommended sanction.
Chillicothe attorney receives one-year suspension for sexual misconduct
Edward Bunstine, an attorney in Chillicothe, was suspended by the court for one year with six months stayed on condition for soliciting sexual activity from a client he was representing in a child custody matter. Adopting the board’s findings in the case, the court stated that Bunstine violated two professional conduct rules by suggesting the client could compensate him for his legal services by engaging in a sexual liaison with him and driving to her home, despite being told by the client not to do so, in an apparent attempt to follow through on that solicitation. The court in its 6-1 per curiam decision noted three aggravating factors – Bunstine’s selfish motive, the harm to his client, and his 2012 stayed suspension for previous unrelated misconduct. Overruling Bunstine’s objections and pointing to the aggravating factors and lack of any mitigating factors, the court suspended his license for one year with six months stayed on the condition that he commit no further misconduct.
The majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French.
Justice William M. O’Neill dissented, stating he would impose an indefinite suspension.
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