Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Akron Attorney Suspended

The Supreme Court of Ohio has suspended the law license of Akron attorney  William J. Detweiler for one year for repeatedly soliciting a client for sexual favors,  and continuing to represent that client in an ongoing case despite the substantial risk that his own personal interests conflicted with those of the client.

In a 5-2 per curiam (not authored by a single justice) opinion announced today, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Detweiler engaged in professional misconduct by sending a woman he was representing in a divorce action a series of increasingly sexual  text messages over a period of several months, ultimately  including a nude photo of his lower body and a request that she engage in oral sex with him.

The client, who never engaged in sex with Detweiler or even met with him socially, stated in a grievance filed with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that she felt “completely trapped” and unable to terminate her client-attorney relationship with Detweiler  because she had already paid him more than $10,000 in legal fees and could not afford to hire a new attorney.

In response to the client’s grievance, Detweiler stipulated that he had engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, continued to represent a client despite the risk that his personal interests would limit his ability to act appropriately on her behalf, and solicited sexual activity with a client when there had been no consensual sexual relationship with that person prior to the attorney-client relationship.

While acknowledging the disciplinary board’s recommendation that Detweiler’s license  be suspended for one year with six months stayed on conditions, the court noted that he was previously  reprimanded in 2010 for engaging in an improper sexual relationship with  a client, and concluded that Detweiler’s increasingly aggressive conduct in the present case called for the more severe sanction of a one-year actual suspension from practice, with reinstatement conditioned on no further misconduct, evaluation by the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program, and compliance with
any treatment recommendations.

The majority opinion was joined by 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, stating that they would impose a one year suspension with six months stayed.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

2012-1711. Disciplinary Counsel v. Detweiler, Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-1747.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 11-065.  William Jeffrey Detweiler, Attorney Registration No. 0039269, is suspended from the practice of law in Ohio for one year.
O’Connor, C.J., and O’Donnell, Lanzinger, Kennedy, and French, JJ., concur.
Pfeifer and O’Neill, JJ., dissent and would impose a one-year suspension with six months stayed.

Video clip View oral argument video of this case.

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