Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Elyria Attorney Suspended for Overbilling County for Court-Appointed Work

The Ohio Supreme Court today suspended an Elyria lawyer for two years, with one year stayed, for conduct relating to her 2020 theft conviction for overbilling Lorain County for work she did as a court-appointed attorney.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Court suspended Jeanette Robinson and required her to pay $50,000 in restitution on top of $29,319 she paid as part of her criminal sentence. The Court noted Robinson fully acknowledged the wrongful nature of her conduct and submitted the $50,000 to her attorney during the disciplinary proceedings in anticipation of the Court’s order.

Medical Conditions Contributed to Theft, Lawyer Stated
In 2019, the Lorain County Bar Association began investigating allegations that Robinson had overbilled the Lorain County Juvenile Court for work she did between 2016 and 2019 as a court-appointed attorney. The bar association filed a complaint about Robinson with the Board of Professional Conduct in 2020, and about two months later, Robinson pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft.

In October 2020, she was sentenced to three years of community control, ordered to pay $29,319 in restitution to the county, and required to abstain from seeking court-appointed legal work for two years. Based on the conviction, the Supreme Court suspended Robinson’s license on an interim basis in October 2020.

At a board disciplinary hearing, Robinson admitted she submitted fraudulent billing statements to trial judges and made false statements to nonjudicial personnel in order for the county auditor to pay her inflated fees. She explained that at the time she was experiencing a series of severe medical problems and did not have sufficient health insurance to cover the cost of her treatment.

Robinson stated her medical condition has since stabilized and she obtained full-time employment as a condition of her community control.

The parties stipulated and the board agreed that Robinson violated several rules of professional conduct, including charging a clearly excessive fee, making false statements to a court, and committing an illegal act that reflects on her honesty and trustworthiness.

Supreme Court Considers Sanction
When considering the sanction in a disciplinary case, the Court considers aggravating circumstances that could increase the penalty and mitigating factors that could lead to a lesser sanction.

The Court noted that Robinson acted with a dishonest or selfish motive, committed multiple offenses, and engaged in a pattern of misconduct. The Court also noted she lacked a prior disciplinary record; made partial restitution by paying the restitution ordered in her criminal case; exhibited a cooperative attitude toward the criminal and disciplinary processes; submitted evidence of her good character and reputation in the legal community; and endured other sanctions for her criminal conduct.

The Court’s opinion noted that Robinson’s misconduct “caused financial harm to the taxpayers of Lorain County, and her dishonesty cast a negative light on the legal profession as a whole.”

The Court stated that Robinson will receive no credit for the time served under her interim suspension and she must comply with all court orders associated with her criminal sentence. She also must pay $50,000 in restitution and not engage in further misconduct or she will have to serve the full two years of her suspension. The Court also ordered Robinson to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2021-0228. Lorain Cty. Bar Assn. v. Robinson, Slip Opinion No. 2021-Ohio-2123.

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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