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Court News Ohio

Supreme Court Disbars Attorney, Suspends Attorney

In separate disciplinary cases announced today, the Ohio Supreme Court disbarred one northeast Ohio attorney and suspended another from the practice of law.

  • The Supreme Court disbarred Warren attorney Kenneth N. Shaw, finding that he represented clients while suspended and paid himself fees in probate actions without first receiving court approval.
  • The Supreme Court suspended Cleveland attorney David A. Streeter Jr. for two years with 18 months stayed on conditions for misappropriating $230,000, engaging in a Ponzi-like scheme, and not promptly owning up to his misconduct.

In Disciplinary Counsel v. Shaw, the court found that Shaw failed to advise four clients that he had been suspended from the practice of law and that in two estate matters he did not receive the required court approval – pursuant to local probate rules – before paying himself attorney fees. The court’s per curiam (not assigned to a specific justice) decision rejected the recommended sanction of an indefinite suspension from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. The Supreme Court noted in its decision that “the circumstances here require Shaw’s permanent disbarment.”

The Supreme Court adopted the board’s findings regarding aggravating factors about prior disciplinary actions, a pattern of misconduct, that “Shaw’s actions caused harm to vulnerable clients,” and that “Shaw acted with a dishonest and selfish motive.” However, the Supreme Court added “factors that Shaw committed multiple offenses and failed to make restitution” in the probate matters.

Noting that disbarment is the typical sanction imposed for attorneys who continue to practice law while under suspension, the court found that Shaw’s cooperation in the investigation as a “lone mitigating factor does not justify a departure from the presumption in favor of disbarment.”

The court also differentiated Shaw’s case from the indefinite suspension sanctions imposed in similar cases because Shaw “was previously disciplined for serious misconduct.”

In Disciplinary Counsel v. Streeter, the court again imposed a more severe sanction than recommended by the board, which did not include an actual suspension from the practice of law. In doing so, the court sustained an objection by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

The Disciplinary Counsel alleged that Streeter misappropriated more than $230,000 in funds from real estate closings that he conducted in the operation of his business, Statewide Title Agency, Ltd., to cover personal and business expenses. In a per curiam opinion, the court distinguished Streeter’s misconduct from that of another attorney who received a fully stayed suspension on the ground that Streeter “took affirmative action to cover up his theft by repaying the money with more misappropriated money rather than with his own funds.” The other attorney, in contrast, disclosed the full extent of his misappropriation in response to relator’s first letter of inquiry.

The Supreme Court noted that Streeter misappropriated more than three times the amount that the other attorney had taken and that “he continues to minimize the extent of his theft by arguing that his Ponzi-like scheme to repay the funds resulted in a net misappropriation of just $75,001.99.”

In addition, the Supreme Court emphasized that “Streeter’s misconduct, in contrast, is the result of a crisis that he could have avoided, or at the very least minimized, with the exercise of due diligence,” the opinion states. “He testified that when he and his business partner decided to amicably dissolve their relationship, he assumed full ownership of Statewide Title, its assets, and its liabilities, without making any inquiry into the financial condition of the business. He admitted that he did not understand the accounting side of the business, and that he did not know how to run a business. Streeter viewed sole ownership of Statewide as an opportunity to advance his career and proceeded blindly, without conducting any of the due diligence that one would expect of someone – especially an attorney – entering into a significant business transaction.”

2013-0923. Disciplinary Counsel v. Shaw, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-1025.

2013-0581. Disciplinary Counsel v. Streeter, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-1051.

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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.

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