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Court News Ohio

Columbus Attorney indefinitely Suspended

The Supreme Court of Ohio has indefinitely suspended the  law license of Columbus attorney Stanlee E. Culbreath for multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. 

In a 7-0 opinion authored by Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Culbreath received a $5,000 settlement on behalf of a personal injury client but failed to properly document or distribute the proceeds, made false statements to one of his client’s creditors and failed to properly supervise non-attorney employees of his law firm. 

The court also found that over a two-year period Culbreath commingled his own funds with funds held for clients in his law office trust account, made unauthorized withdrawals from the trust account  and  improperly used it to pay personal and business expenses, and failed to maintain accurate accounting records or to conduct monthly reconciliations. The court found further that Culbreath committed additional rule violations by failing to respond to inquiries or to make timely production of financial records and tax returns that were requested by disciplinary authorities.

Justice Stratton indicated that in setting the penalty for Culbreath’s misconduct, the court concluded that an indefinite license suspension with stringent conditions for future reinstatement, rather than permanent disbarment, was appropriate.  She wrote; “Many of Culbreath’s problems stem from the numerous tragic events that disrupted his personal and professional life beginning in 2007.  His counselor, Judith Fisher, testified that as a result of his grief, he was unable to focus on his law practice, which in turn affected his ability to practice law.”

“Prior to any reinstatement, Culbreath must demonstrate that he has taken 12 hours instruction on current professional-responsibility rules and acceptable office practices in addition to the general requirements in Gov.Bar R. X(3)(G). In addition, he must submit an independent mental-health evaluation, successfully complete his OLAP contract, and commit no further misconduct.  Upon reinstatement, he must be assigned a monitor for one year of probation, during which he must practice law in association with at least one other experienced lawyer.  Under these circumstances, an indefinite suspension of Culbreath’s license to practice law fulfills the underlying purpose of the disciplinary proceedings, i.e., ‘to safeguard the courts and to protect the public.’”

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2012-0999. Columbus Bar Assn. v. Culbreath, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-5031.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 10-060.  Stanlee E. Culbreath, Attorney Registration No. 0033211, is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Ohio, with conditions on reinstatement.
O’Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, O’Donnell, Lanzinger, Cupp, and McGee Brown, JJ., concur.

Video clip View oral argument video of this case.

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