Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Former Ohio Attorney Receives Additional Suspension for Abandoning Clients

The Ohio Supreme Court today imposed an additional two-year suspension on an attorney for abandoning two clients and failing to cooperate in disciplinary proceedings.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Court suspended Timothy Dougherty of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and set the suspension start date to April 13, 2020, which was the day Dougherty was found in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the terms of a prior two-year suspension.

Dougherty, formerly of Columbus, was suspended in October 2019, primarily for engaging and assisting a now-disbarred attorney in the unauthorized practice of law. (See Disbarment, Suspension Issued for Attorneys Engaged in Unauthorized Practice.) The second year of the 2019 suspension was stayed with conditions Dougherty needed to meet if he wanted to resume the practice of law in Ohio.

In January 2020, the Court found Dougherty in contempt for failing to surrender his attorney-registration card and file an affidavit of compliance with the Court. Several weeks later, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel urged the Court to find Dougherty in contempt based on his failure to pay court-ordered restitution of $6,050 to two former clients. Dougherty failed to respond to the proposal. In April 2020, the Court found Dougherty in contempt a second time, lifted the stay, and ordered him to serve the full two-year suspension.

Attorney Leaves State
Two weeks after Dougherty was found in contempt, the disciplinary counsel filed a new complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct based on his handling of two client matters and failing to follow through on promised replies to the disciplinary counsel.

In 2017, Dougherty faced disciplinary charges for aiding suspended attorney Chris Cicero in the unauthorized practice of law. Dougherty and Cicero objected to the board’s proposal to suspend Dougherty and disbar Cicero. The Court conducted oral argument on the matter on May 8, 2019. (Listen to oral argument in the case.) Four days after the matter was heard, Dougherty moved to New Mexico. In late 2020, he told a board hearing panel he has not worked in the legal profession since moving to New Mexico and has no plans to return to Ohio. When he moved, he said he delegated his professional responsibilities to Cicero and attorney Ric Daniell.

Client Flees Courthouse
Dougherty had represented Jashon Poindexter in a pending criminal matter in Franklin County Common Pleas Court since 2017. Poindexter’s trial was scheduled for May 13, 2019. Dougherty moved to New Mexico on May 12 that year without informing the trial court or withdrawing from the case, as required by the local court rules.

Daniell appeared at Poindexter’s trial, informed the court he was Poindexter’s new attorney, and that Dougherty had moved. Daniell requested a continuance to prepare for trial. Poindexter appeared briefly at the courthouse, then fled.

The judge denied the request for the continuance, and sent an email to Dougherty the next day informing him of what happened. The judge gave Dougherty 24 hours to explain or else the judge would consider holding him in contempt. Cicero responded to the judge from Dougherty’s email account and stated that Daniell would submit a substitution of counsel notice the next day, which Daniell never provided.

Dougherty never responded to the judge. In August 2020, Dougherty submitted his request to withdraw from the Poindexter case. At that time, Poindexter remained at large.

The board found Dougherty violated several rules governing the ethical conduct of Ohio lawyers, including one that required him to seek court approval before withdrawing from a case.

Pattern Repeated in Custody Case
Dougherty represented a woman in a child custody case. He appeared at a March 2019 hearing on her behalf and requested a continuance to May 8. He did not appear at the May 8 hearing and did not inform his client that he could not continue to represent her. He also did not ask the court for permission to withdraw from the case.

The board found he failed to act with reasonable diligence in representing a client and did not keep his client informed about her matter.

The Disciplinary Counsel sent letters to Dougherty inquiring about his withdrawal from the cases. Dougherty acknowledged receiving the letters but did not respond to them. He sent the office an email regarding his failure to pay the restitution related to his 2019 suspension without addressing the new complaints.

Daniell, acting has Dougherty’s attorney, requested that the inquiry letters be sent to him so he could respond on Dougherty’s behalf. Neither responded to the letters. The board found Dougherty failed to comply with a disciplinary investigation.

Supreme Court Sets Conditions for Return to Law
The Court adopted the board’s proposal to condition Dougherty’s reinstatement on his compliance with the conditions of his 2019 suspension, completion of 12 hours of continuing legal education in law office management, and to require him to serve a two-year period of monitored probation if he does return to practicing law. The Court also charged Dougherty for the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2020-1514. Disciplinary Counsel v. Dougherty, Slip Opinion No. 2021-Ohio-1240.

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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