Supreme Court Suspends Two Northeastern Ohio Attorneys
In separate cases, the Ohio Supreme Court today suspended two attorneys from the Cleveland area.
Criminal law attorney indefinitely suspended
In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court ordered that John L. Lemieux of Gates Mills be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law. The court agreed with the findings of the attorney disciplinary board that Lemieux engaged in misconduct while representing several clients.
Lemieux has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for many years, participating in varied treatment programs and suffering multiple relapses. During this time, he accepted payments in advance from four clients, but did not do the legal work they paid for and did not properly inform them about their cases, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline found. In three criminal cases, Lemieux requested postponements repeatedly while the defendants remained in jail, and he sometimes missed court appearances. He did not even enter an appearance in the fourth client’s criminal case.
The court also determined that Lemieux did not keep a client trust account, as required by the attorney professional conduct rules, and he sent solicitation letters to potential clients stating that he worked for a multi-lawyer firm when he was a solo practitioner.
Because Lemieux has participated in treatment, has passed monthly drug tests for 15 months, and has attended regular 12-step meetings, the court “conclude[d] that an indefinite suspension with the stringent conditions for reinstatement that have been recommended by the board will adequately protect the public from future harm.”
Before he may apply for reinstatement, Lemieux must fully comply with a new contract with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) including random drug testing, pass the drug tests once a week for a year and then once every two weeks for the second year, and pay back about $7,600 to the four clients, among other requirements, the court ruled.
If Lemieux is then reinstated as an attorney, he must sign a new OLAP contract, submit to random monthly drug tests for three years, work with an experienced lawyer for his first year of reinstatement, and serve a three-year probationary period, according to the court’s per curiam opinion.
Joining the court’s opinion were Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, and William M. O’Neill. Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger concurred only in the judgment of the court. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Terrence O’Donnell would disbar Lemieux.
Former partner in Cleveland law firm suspended after filing false tax returns
In a second disciplinary case involving an attorney from Gates Mills, the Supreme Court suspended Leslie W. Jacobs for two years because of a 2012 felony conviction for filing false tax returns. The court has given Jacobs credit for the time he already has been suspended on an interim basis following that conviction.
While working as the senior partner at a large law firm, Jacobs inflated his deductions for business expenses when filing his own tax returns for tax years 2004 to 2007. Among his improper deductions: he reported expenses, such as travel on client matters, that had already been reimbursed by his firm; he deducted meals and entertainment at 100 percent of the costs, knowing that only 50 percent was eligible as a business expense; he claimed expenses that are not deductible, such as private club memberships, personal meals, and personal uses of the clubs; and he deducted costs for two leased vehicles entirely as business expenses even though he used the cars for personal reasons and had been reimbursed from his firm for business mileage.
According to the court’s unanimous per curiam opinion: “In the false returns for those four years, Jacobs understated his taxable income by $256,380 and overstated his expenses by $253,256, resulting in unpaid taxes of $75,385.”
Jacobs pled guilty in November 2011 to a federal charge of filing false tax returns. The next April, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended him for an interim period from practicing law.
Jacobs paid the unpaid taxes the day he was sentenced, served a one-year prison term, completed home confinement and supervised release, and paid a $10,000 fine. Given these penalties and the fact that Jacobs had no prior disciplinary record, cooperated in the disciplinary proceedings, acknowledged that his conduct was wrong, and has been active in the legal community as a former Ohio State Bar Association president and as an officer and committee chair for the American Bar Association, the court determined that the appropriate sanction is a two-year suspension with credit for the time he has served since the 2012 interim suspension.
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