Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Attorney Suspended for Failing to Serve Clients

A Central Ohio attorney is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law today. The Supreme Court of Ohio unanimously found the attorney demonstrated a pattern of misconduct, causing harm to six vulnerable clients.

Marianne Sharp collected retainers and fees from clients in family law and criminal cases. An investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel found Sharp failed to provide the agreed services, lied to clients, and concealed her inaction, among other violations.

Client Surprised Criminal Record Remained
In 2018, a father paid Sharp $1,000 to represent his daughter on criminal charges of underage drinking and false identification. He also asked to have the record expunged. Sharp negotiated terms of a plea agreement. The client completed her obligations under the deal. The trial court dismissed the case the next month, and Sharp filed an application for expungement.

After learning the prosecutor would object to expunging the criminal record within one year, Sharp withdrew the application without informing the client or her father. Nearly two years later, when the client applied for a job, an employment background check uncovered the charges, and she did not get the job. The father later hired another attorney and obtained an expungement in September 2021.

Client Paid Support Longer Than Expected
In June 2019, Shawn Meadows hired Sharp to end his spousal support obligation in his Marion County divorce. Meadows signed a fee agreement and paid a $3,000 retainer. He met with Sharp and signed the motion, expecting it to be filed promptly because he was continuing to pay $425 every two weeks in spousal support.

Over the next two months, Meadows had trouble connecting with Sharp. The attorney texted that she did not have a court date yet. In truth, Sharp did not file the motion until Sept. 5, 2019. In the following months, the hearing on Meadows’ motion was twice delayed. On the morning of the final hearing in February 2020, Sharp called Meadows to say she was double-booked, and that the court would not continue Meadows’ case. Sharp said she would dismiss the motion and refile it at her own expense. She dismissed it but never refiled.

Meadows terminated Sharp as his lawyer in March 2020. Over the next four months, he tried to obtain his case file and a refund of his retainer. Meadows hired another attorney who filed a motion and obtained an order terminating Meadows’ spousal support effective Dec. 31, 2020. 

In January 2022, nearly two years after Meadows first requested a refund, and two weeks before Sharp’s disciplinary hearing, Sharp refunded Meadows’ full retainer.

Pattern of Unresponsive Communication and Cancelled Meetings
Between 2019 and 2021, two clients with pending divorces and two clients with separate adoption matters each hired Sharp for their cases. The clients experienced problems reaching or getting responses from Sharp. Sharp also failed to prepare or file documents as promised in each of those cases. Eventually each those clients fired Sharp to hire another attorney, only to experience trouble obtaining their case files and refunds of their remaining retainers. Sharp issued refunds to three of the four clients shortly before her disciplinary hearing.

Board Considers Aggravating and Mitigating Factors
When considering the appropriate sanction in a disciplinary case, aggravating circumstances
could increase the penalty and mitigating factors could lead to a lesser sanction.

The Board of Professional Conduct found Sharp acted with a dishonest motive by collecting retainers and fees without providing the agreed services, lying to clients, and concealing her inaction from them. Her pattern of misconduct and multiple offenses were among the aggravating factors.

The board reported mitigating factors, including that Sharp, who had been licensed since 2009, had no prior discipline. Sharp submitted character letters, but they carried little weight with the board because the authors did not know of the allegations in the complaint.

Sharp testified about and provided documentation of a chronic illness she experienced around the time of her misconduct and a subsequently diagnosed mental disorder. However, she did not seek to qualify either condition as a mitigating factor.

The board recommended Sharp be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law.

The Supreme Court, by a 7-0 vote, agreed and indefinitely suspended Sharp from the practice of law and ordered her to pay $2,900 in restitution to one of her former clients. To seek reinstatement, Sharp must show proof of compliance with her contract with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program.

2022-0712. Disciplinary Counsel v. Sharp, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-3702.

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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