Supreme Court Sanctions Three Ohio Attorneys
In separate cases, the Ohio Supreme Court today suspended three attorneys.
Cleveland attorney indefinitely suspended
An interim suspension of Kenneth K. McElroy’s law license has now been extended for an indefinite period. The Supreme Court’s 7-0 per curiam decision follows the recommendation of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that the Cleveland lawyer has engaged in a pattern of lying.
Among the counts brought by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association against McElroy are that he failed to report his conviction in 2005 for felony forgery and tampering with evidence to any disciplinary authority. The case stemmed from an incident with his girlfriend when he notarized her alleged signature on a car title without administering the oath and without actually witnessing her sign it. In an attempt to expunge the conviction in 2010, McElroy continued to be less than truthful when he filed for sealing the record as a first offense, when it was actually the second of three criminal convictions. The other two were assault convictions in 1993 and 2005.
In the decision, McElroy’s many false statements “raised a question about his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer” as outlined in the Rules of Professional Conduct. The court determined that an indefinite suspension, with no credit for time served, is appropriate.
Toledo attorney suspended
Toledo attorney Beauregard M. Harvey was already on a one-year suspension for misconduct when he allegedly violated professional conduct rules again. In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court today agreed with a recommendation from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline to suspend Harvey for two years, with six months stayed on the condition that he pay restitution.
The Toledo Bar Association filed a complaint against Harvey for his conduct while representing four clients in separate legal matters. The complaint outlines Harvey’s failure to provide competent legal representation for a client who needed to file bankruptcy; his failure to repay one client in a fee dispute and another who had paid him for unprovided legal services; and his texting of threatening messages to the former employer of one of his clients.
Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote the majority decision for the court and ordered Harvey to repay $2,512 plus interest and costs to one former client and $1,050 to another.
Justice Lanzinger’s opinion was joined by Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, and William M. O’Neill. Justice Terrence O’Donnell concurred in judgment only, while Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Paul E. Pfeifer would have imposed a two-year suspension with no stay.
Champaign County criminal defense attorney suspended
George Z. Pappas of Urbana will serve a two-year suspension for multiple rules violations after a federal felony conviction for making false statements to federal authorities. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a 6-1 per curiam decision to accept the recommendation of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of a two-year suspension. Contrary to the board’s recommendation, the court declined to grant Pappas any credit for the time he has already served under his interim felony suspension, which the court imposed on August 22, 2012.
In 2004, Pappas agreed to falsely claim ownership of the Columbus law firm owned by his law school classmate and best friend, Aristotle Matsa, who wanted to prevent his wife from getting the firm’s records during a divorce. What Pappas did not realize was that Matsa was involved in a tax-fraud scheme that became part of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Justice. During the investigation and under oath to a federal grand jury, Pappas repeatedly stated that he was the owner of Matsa’s law firm. Pappas eventually cooperated with the federal government’s investigation into Matsa and agreed to a plea deal for making false statements. Pappas was sentenced in June 2012 by a federal judge to probation for a year, including four months of home confinement.
Due to mitigating circumstances, including that Pappas did not financially benefit from misrepresenting his ownership of the law firm and that he eventually made “a good-faith effort to rectify the consequences of his misconduct,” the Supreme Court agreed to the two-year suspension but decided against granting Pappas any credit for the time he has already served under his interim felony suspension.
Joining the majority were Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, and William M. O’Neill.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell filed a dissenting opinion stating that Pappas should be disbarred.
“The egregious conduct Pappas engaged in, particularly with respect to IRS agents, and his testimony before a grand jury and representations to the Department of Justice adversely affect the administration of justice,” Justice O’Donnell wrote. “In my view, a two-year suspension with no credit for time served under the interim felony suspension is not an appropriate sanction.”
Pappas had also been sanctioned and suspended before for failing to comply with continuing legal education requirement and failing to register.
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