Cincinnati Attorney Receives Suspension for Using Client’s Money for Personal Expenses
Marcus E. Coleman of Cincinnati will serve a two-year suspension with 18 months stayed for mismanaging a client’s funds and records, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered today.
Coleman was hired in 2010 by James F. Love for a civil matter. Later Love, who was incarcerated, asked Coleman to purchase stocks as directed and gave the lawyer $18,000. Along with depositing the money improperly into his personal account, Coleman also misappropriated the funds. By February 2012, Love had noticed some discrepancies and asked Coleman to return $13,066, which should have still been in the lawyer’s client trust account. Coleman lied and tried to stall. After he gave a check to Love’s criminal attorney but asked that it not be cashed, Coleman eventually set up a repayment plan with Love in July 2012. By March 2014, the attorney had repaid Love all the money he owed.
Rule Violations and Suspension
The parties agreed and the attorney disciplinary board concluded that Coleman violated professional conduct rules requiring lawyers to hold client money in a trust account, to reconcile the account each month, and to keep specific records about each client’s funds. In addition, the board found he had participated in dishonest, fraudulent, or deceitful conduct.
The panel of the board that heard the case recommended a two-year suspension with 18 months stayed, while the full board recommended that the entire two years be stayed. Both the panel and the board noted that Coleman was dealing with personal difficulties at the time of his misconduct. The lawyer was raising his daughter and two nephews alone when his appointments from the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office dropped dramatically to only a few cases per month. He testified they were evicted from their home and he mishandled Love’s money to cover living expenses for the family.
In a 5-2 per curiam decision, the court decided that an actual suspension of some time was needed in this case. Eighteen months of the two-year suspension will be stayed if Coleman works with a law-practice monitor during the stay and commits no further misconduct.
In the court’s majority were 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 and would have stayed the entire suspension.
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