Two Central Ohio Attorneys Suspended from Practice of Law
The Ohio Supreme Court today indefinitely suspended a Dublin attorney and ordered a two-year suspension with one year stayed for a Columbus attorney from the practice of law for violating rules of professional conduct.
Dublin attorney who filed false tax return indefinitely suspended
Dublin attorney Robert Schuler filed a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service for 2002 that reported an income of $1,162,087. However, Schuler later told investigators that he had in fact received $360,000 in additional business income that he did not report on the tax return. He said that the error was the result of a bookkeeping oversight involving the proceeds of a radio-telecommunications business that he had sold. The funds were improperly deposited into his personal rather than his business account.
Schuler pled guilty to a felony count of filing a false tax return, and a federal court sentenced him in 2011 to one year of probation and assessed a $50,000 fine. The Supreme Court issued an interim suspension as a result of the felony conviction.
In today’s 5-2 per curiam (not authored by a specific justice) decision, the court adopted the findings of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline, which determined that by filing the false tax return Schuler had engaged in dishonest or fraudulent behavior, and that the behavior adversely reflected on his ability to practice law.
The court also agreed with the board’s recommended sanction of an indefinite suspension with credit for time served for the previous interim suspension.
Joining the court’s majority were Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, and William M. O’Neill. Tenth District Appeals Court Judge William A. Klatt, who sat for Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, also joined the majority.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Judith L. French dissented, stating that they would not give Schuler credit for time served during his interim suspension.
Court sanctions Columbus attorney who mishandled client funds
In 2008, Columbus attorney Paul Wallace represented Nigel Jackson in multiple matters, including an insurance claim for a stolen BMW, another claim for stolen property in his girlfriend’s car, the incorporation of his business, and the publishing of a book Jackson had written.
After Jackson was arrested in 2009 on drug charges, Wallace continued to represent Jackson on non-criminal matters while he was in jail, and handled the insurance claim for the stolen BMW. A few months after Jackson’s arrest, the insurance company mailed a $32,132 check as compensation for the stolen car. The check was written out to Jackson and his girlfriend but was mailed to Wallace’s office.
Wallace endorsed the check using Jackson’s and his girlfriend’s names, and deposited it into his account. He proceeded to misappropriate the entire $32,132 over a span of three months. Wallace also told his client that the settlement had been for $24,000, not the full $32,000. He would later say that the difference in the amounts was his legal fee.
While Jackson remained in jail, he asked his girlfriend to deliver a bag of cash to Wallace at his office. The money was to be used to help publish his book. Wallace said the bag contained $7,500, of which he deposited $5,000 into his operating account, which also contained his own money. The remaining $2,500 was deposited into the client’s trust account. Wallace then disbursed some of the money to Jackson’s company, but also wrote checks to himself and a loan servicing company.
In today’s 4-3 per curiam (not authored by a specific justice) decision, the court adopted the findings of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline, which determined that Wallace failed to keep his client’s funds in a separate account, did not keep records of those funds, and engaged in behavior that adversely reflected on his ability to practice law.
The court ordered a two-year suspension, but stayed the second year of the sanction. It also ordered one year of monitored probation if Wallace is reinstated to the practice of law.
Joining the majority were Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Judith Ann Lanzinger and William M. O’Neill dissented, stating that they would not stay the second year of the suspension.
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