Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Cincinnati Lawyer Indefinitely Suspended for Neglecting Client Matters

The Ohio Supreme Court today indefinitely suspended a Cincinnati attorney for repeatedly failing to follow through with her clients’ domestic-relations matters and refusing to cooperate with disciplinary proceedings.

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court suspended Elizabeth Ford for violating several of the rules governing the conduct of Ohio attorneys. This is Ford’s third suspension, and she has been under suspension since November 2019 for failing to register with the Court as a practicing attorney. She was previously suspended between 2005 and 2007 for failing to register.

At her disciplinary hearing, Ford testified that she had been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for approximately three years and had been treated for those conditions by a psychiatrist and therapist. But she did not offer any additional evidence to establish that those conditions justified a lesser sanction than a suspension, the opinion stated.

The Court imposed mental health treatment measures as a condition of her application to return the practice of law.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Judith L. French, Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly and Melody J. Stewart joined the opinion. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in part and dissented in part, stating she would not impose the additional conditions for reinstatement.

Attorney Fails to Return Client Funds
The Office of the Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct in November 2018, primarily alleging that Ford failed to comply as soon as practical with her clients’ reasonable requests for information; failed to deposit unearned fees into a client trust account separate from her own property; engaged in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and failed to cooperate in the ensuing disciplinary investigations.

The disciplinary counsel charged Ford for actions she took beginning with clients she engaged with from 2016 through 2018. Clients complained that Ford had not returned fees, failed to respond to follow-up attempts to contact her, misled them about attempts to pay them, and failed to promptly transfer a client’s files after the client requested her files be returned.

The board found Ford committed the misconduct and was dishonest during the disciplinary proceedings. The board recommended the Court indefinitely suspend her.

The Court stated that if Ford applies for readmission to practice law, she must complete an evaluation through the Ohio Lawyers’ Assistance Program, comply with any treatment or counseling recommendations resulting from that evaluation, demonstrate a sustained period of successful treatment or counseling if it is recommended, and provide a prognosis from a qualified healthcare professional that she is capable of returning to the competent, ethical, and professional practice of law.

2019-1367. Disciplinary Counsel v. Ford, Slip Opinion No. 2020-Ohio-998.

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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