Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Attorney Indefinitely Suspended for Failing to Disclose Drug Conviction

The Supreme Court of Ohio today indefinitely suspended an Elyria attorney who failed to self-report a federal felony drug conviction to disciplinary authorities.

James T. Robinson has been under an indefinite suspension from practicing law since 2009. When Robinson notified the Lorain County Bar Association in December 2022 that he was applying to the Supreme Court for reinstatement to the practice of law, it was the first time Robinson disclosed to disciplinary authorities that he had been criminally convicted for ordering weekly crack cocaine deliveries to his home.

In a per curiam opinion, the Court found Robinson violated an ethics rule requiring self-reporting of ethics violations that raise a question about his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer. The Court noted that Robinson did not truly report his violation but only informed the bar association of his conviction to demonstrate that he complied with his plea-bargained sentence.

Soon after learning of the conviction, the Court imposed an interim felony suspension on Robinson, which was on top of this prior indefinite suspension. Today, a Court majority credited him for time served since January 2023 under the interim suspension. Generally, an attorney can apply for reinstatement after serving two years of an indefinite suspension.

Justices R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, Melody Stewart, and Joseph T. Deters joined the per curiam opinion.

Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy and Justice Patrick F. Fischer stated they would not award Robinson credit for time served under the interim felony suspension. Justice Jennifer Brunner did not participate in the case.

Suspended Attorney Arrested
Robinson was indefinitely suspended from practicing law in 2009 for neglecting several bankruptcy matters, misrepresenting to clients the status of those cases, and intentionally damaging his clients’ cases.

Last year, Robinson testified at a Board of Professional Conduct hearing that he had long struggled with drug addiction. He was working in a variety of non-attorney positions when a federal grand jury indicted him in 2020 on three charges related to possession and distribution of crack cocaine.

When explaining his conviction at a board hearing, Robinson admitted he had been purchasing and using crack for about eight years when authorities got a search warrant for his home. He admitted that from 2018 to mid-2020, he received weekly deliveries of the drug to his home. However, he noted that he did not use crack every day and no drugs were found in his home during the search.

He pleaded guilty to a single count of maintaining a drug premises. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced him in April 2022 to three years of probation.

Convicted Lawyer Applies for Reinstatement
Eight months after his conviction, Robinson shared a draft petition for reinstatement to the practice of law with the local bar association. It was the first time Robinson disclosed his felony drug conviction to any disciplinary authorities. In his petition, he stated that he quit using drugs and included statements and documentation that showed he completed inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.

The revelation of the crime prompted the bar association to file a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct, charging Robinson with failing to self-report his conviction and arguing that his serious substance-use issues make him unfit to practice law.

At his board hearing, Robinson explained that he completed treatment programs that were part of his felony plea agreement, and he continues to participate in Narcotics Anonymous groups. He also contracted with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) in 2023 and stated that he is in full compliance with the contract.

The parties stipulated, and the board agreed, that Robinson failed to report his conviction and that his conduct adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law.

The opinion noted that while this is his second indefinite suspension, the board found Robinson demonstrated a “sincere commitment to his sobriety and betterment.”

The Court ruled that to be reinstated, he must provide proof that he continued to participate in Narcotics Anonymous and complied with his OLAP contract. He was also ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2024-0169. Lorain Cty. Bar Assn. v.  Robinson, Slip Opinion No. 2024-Ohio-1657.

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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