Two Attorneys Suspended from Practice of Law
The Ohio Supreme Court has suspended two attorneys, both with a history of violating professional conduct rules for lawyers.
The Supreme Court unanimously sanctioned Rebecca C. Meyer with an indefinite suspension and placed Jana Bassinger DeLoach on a two-year suspension, with the second year stayed.
Practicing While Suspended
Meyer, formerly known as Rebecca Gee, was admitted to practice law in Kentucky in 2002 and Ohio in 2003. In January 2009, she was suspended by the Supreme Court of Kentucky for failing to pay her bar dues and failing to comply with her continuing legal education (CLE) requirements. She was additionally fined and suspended by the Ohio Supreme Court for failure to comply with her Ohio CLE requirements for four years.
Meyer fulfilled her Ohio CLE requirements, paid her fines, and was reinstated to practice law in Ohio in June 2011. In March 2012, Kentucky suspended Meyer for 61 days for failure to abide by her prior suspension order, practicing law while under suspension, and for failure to respond to a disciplinary investigation. The Ohio Supreme Court issued a reciprocal disciplinary order in June 2012 declaring she would not be reinstated to practice law in Ohio until she is reinstated in Kentucky.
In November 2012, Ohio tacked on an additional 18 months, with six months stayed, to Meyer’s suspension after finding she practiced law in Ohio while under her CLE suspension, made false and misleading statements to the Ohio Office of Disciplinary Counsel during the investigation of her actions, and failed to notify the Office of Attorney Services that she changed her name from Gee to Meyer in 2004. Meyer has not been reinstated by Kentucky so the Ohio suspension remained in effect.
The court, in a per curiam opinion, indicated the indefinite suspension is the result of actions Meyer failed to take while suspended. She participated in a case management conference during her suspension and failed to notify a court and opposing attorneys in two cases that she was suspended. When Ohio’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel sent her a letter inquiring about her work in the cases, she failed to respond. When informed of the failure to answer, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline (now known as the Board of Professional Conduct) asked the Supreme Court to impose a default suspension of Meyer, which was granted in February 2013.
Meyer initially denied she violated Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct but later admitted she failed to withdraw from representation while suspended, knowingly disobeyed an order from the court, practiced law in a jurisdiction in violation of the law governing that jurisdiction, and knowingly failed to respond to a request for information from the disciplinary counsel.
“We typically impose an additional indefinite suspension of an attorney’s license when the attorney has continued to practice law during a previous suspension imposed for violations of the Rules for the Government of the Bar or the Rules of Professional Conduct,” the opinion stated.
The court issued a number of steps Meyer must take to be reinstated including complying with all the terms of her Ohio sanctions, getting reinstated in Kentucky, and not engaging in further misconduct.
The Supreme Court first suspended DeLoach’s law license in December 2010 for failing to comply with her CLE requirements. In August 2011, the court issued a six-month stayed suspension and a two-year period of monitored probation for engaging in dishonest conduct during a disciplinary investigation, and in October 2012, she was publicly reprimanded for failing to notify clients that she lacked professional liability insurance.
In May 2013, the Akron Bar Association charged DeLoach with professional misconduct for neglecting a client matter, charging the client an excessive fee, and failing to deposit the client’s retainer into a trust account. The disciplinary board recommended a two-year suspension, with both years stayed if DeLoach met certain conditions. The court, recognizing that the actions questioned by the bar association took place during the same time she was being sanctioned for other rule violations, decided to issue one year of actual suspension with the second year stayed.
The suspension is the result of DeLoach taking a $7,000 retainer from Rose Warren in April 2008 to investigate the murder conviction of her son, OsRouge Turner, and obtain Turner’s release from prison. DeLoach told Warren she would charge $250 per hour until she reached $7,000 and if further work was required, she would continue without charge.
After taking the fee, DeLoach failed to obtain a trial transcript and public records in Turner’s case. She did not file a motion for resentencing, the first step in the process for obtaining
Turner’s release, until May 2010, two years after his mother retained DeLoach, the court noted.
The resentencing motion was three pages long, and DeLoach failed to file a brief in reply to the state’s 10-page memorandum opposing Turner’s resentencing. “She told Turner that she would update and resubmit the brief, but she failed to file anything additional with the court,” the per curiam opinion stated.
DeLoach admitted to the disciplinary board that she did not act with diligence in filing the motion and some of her early work was not necessary. The board found she made bad tactical decisions and failed to manage her caseload so that she could handle the Turner case competently. Both the board and the court found DeLoach violated the professional conduct rule requiring a lawyer to act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client.
Warren asked for a full refund of her $7,000 retainer, but DeLoach declined to refund the money and did not provide a billing statement to her. During the disciplinary proceedings, an expert testifying on behalf of the bar association said it was likely DeLoach spent 16.6 hours working on Turner’s case and could have charged Warren $4,150, leaving Warren a $2,850 refund. DeLoach then agreed to pay the refund, but waited 36 days after the disciplinary hearing to pay. The court deemed that DeLoach violated the rule prohibiting lawyers from charging a clearly excessive fee, and that DeLoach never placed the money into a client trust account where she could withdraw payments after documenting the time spent working for the client.
In determining the sanction, the opinion explained that actions leading to her prior disciplinary charges had taken place within months of the wrongful conduct in handling the Turner case. “Thus, DeLoach committed some of the underlying misconduct while her first disciplinary case was pending,” the opinion noted. “More importantly, we would have sanctioned DeLoach differently in her prior cases if we had been aware of the extent of her misconduct.”
The court ruled its stay of the second year of suspension is contingent on DeLoach not committing further misconduct, completing 12 hours of legal education in law practice management and recordkeeping, and submitting to monitored probation.
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