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Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Columbus Lawyer with Multiple Convictions Indefinitely Suspended

The Ohio Supreme Court today indefinitely suspended a Columbus attorney who faced criminal charges in five matters in a two-year time span.

Kristina M. Lindner did not object to a Board of Professional Conduct recommendation of indefinite suspension for violating multiple rules governing Ohio lawyers. In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court stated several of the charges she faced between November 2013 and November 2015 included disorderly conduct, endangering her children, leaving the scene of an accident, falsification, and driving while impaired.

Convictions Result from Domestic Violence Charges
Lindner was charged with domestic violence and assault for allegedly kicking and striking her husband in November 2013. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and received a suspended jail sentence and one year of community control. She was ordered to stay away from her husband, and was warned not commit any new offenses. Seven months later, she was charged again with domestic violence and assault for allegedly striking her husband, and pleaded guilty to another disorderly conduct charge. She served eight days in jail.

In July 2014, she pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child endangerment for allegedly leaving her young daughters home alone in February. Her 3-year-old daughter was found attempting to ride a bicycle on a snow-covered street, while her 8-month-old daughter was found alone at home crying uncontrollably. She received a suspended jail sentence and was placed on two years community control. Her community control required that she not commit any new offenses, remain alcohol- and drug-free, and comply with additional conditions set by the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP).

Additional Charges Stem from Two Motor Vehicle Incidents
Later in 2014, Lindner was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and backing up her vehicle unsafely. She was charged later with falsification regarding the incident for claiming that her car had been stolen several hours before the accident. In October 2015, she was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OVI).

She pleaded guilty to leaving the scene, falsification and OVI, all of which violated her community control conditions. She received a suspended jail sentence and community control, which included conditions to stay drug-and alcohol-free, was ordered to submit to a chemical-dependency assessment, and complete alcohol and chemical-dependency treatment.

Lindner Removes Herself from Practicing Law
The Columbus Bar Association filed a complaint against Lindner with the professional conduct board in November 2015 based on the criminal convictions, and at a professional conduct board panel hearing she testified she removed herself from practicing law in January 2016.

The board found that she violated several rules including committing illegal acts, engaging in conduct that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s fitness to practice, and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

The Court’s opinion noted that the board determined  the “volume, seriousness, recklessness, and repetitiveness” of Lindner’s behavior, “combined with the existence of outstanding warrants for her arrest at the time of the hearing and her failure to take corrective action, were sufficiently egregious” proof that she violated the rules.

The opinion noted that the board considers several issues before recommending a sanction, including aggravating circumstances that can increase a penalty and mitigating factors that can lessen it.

The board found Lindner acted with a dishonest or selfish motive, endangered her children, engaged in a pattern of misconduct, committed multiple offenses, and did not cooperate in the disciplinary process, including failing to appear at a scheduled deposition and failing to appear on time for a disciplinary panel hearing.

At the time of her panel hearing, Lindner did not have a permanent residence, a working vehicle, a cell phone, or any income other than food stamps. She testified that she developed an opioid addiction after taking medication for an injury inflicted by her husband, and participated sporadically in drug-treatment programs.
She admitted that she failed to comply with the terms of her five-year OLAP contract, and while she claimed that she complied with all the terms of her criminal convictions, she failed to realize that one of her sentences required complying with the OLAP terms.

The Court wrote that the board found there was no question Lindner “leads a bleak existence in an intolerably abusive environment,” and expressed its belief that she is “debilitated both by a substance abuse addiction and by her dependence on an abusive husband without whom she feels she cannot support herself and her children.”

The Court found that she was not able to prove a mental or substance-abuse disorder that would be considered a mitigating factor, but did note she had no prior disciplinary record. The board also indicated that Lindner was dedicated to her clients and there was no evidence any of them were harmed by her behavior.

The Columbus Bar Association recommended she be indefinitely suspended, while Lindner suggested she be suspended for two years with 18 months stayed on conditions. The board concluded that based on her ongoing opioid addiction, failure to comply with the OLAP treatment plan, and “careen[ing] from one violent or reckless criminal act to another” she should be indefinitely suspended.

The Court adopted the board’s recommendation and conditioned her reinstatement on proof that she complies with recommendations, if any, from a domestic-abuse assessment, complies with an established substance-abuse treatment program, and receives a prognosis from a qualified health care professional that she is capable of returning to the practice of law.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, William M. O’Neill, and R. Patrick DeWine joined the opinion. Justice Patrick F. Fischer did not participate in the case.

2016-1820. Columbus Bar Association v. Lindner, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-4362.

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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