Monday, October 1, 2018

"Road rage" incident escalates into a disciplinary sanction, one year suspension

As a reminder that lawyers can be sanctioned for conduct outside the practice of law, take a look at a recent case in which the Ohio Supreme Court suspended a lawyer for his conduct related to an incident with a bicyclist that led to a subsequent scuffle and more misconduct.  In a unanimous opinion, the Court suspended the lawyer for one year with six months stayed.

In addition, the more interesting part of the case is not the fact that the original conduct was an incident outside the practice of law but the discussion about what level of sanction should be imposed.  The Board of Professional Conduct had recommended a two year suspension.

The Legal Profession Blog has more details, but the basic story is this:  while driving his car, believing that a bicyclist had bumped into his car, the attorney in question followed the cyclist, drove in front of him and slammed on the breaks causing the cyclist to crash into the back of the car.  After that, the lawyer got into what was described as a "scuffle" with the cyclist and a witness who had started to take a video with his cellphone.  Eventually, the lawyer was charged with a misdemeanor, skipped his court date, was arrested, lied about the incident and so on. 

The lawyer, in a way, failed to follow the number one rule when you find yourself in a hole:  "stop digging!"  He continued to make things worse in different ways and ended up facing a two year suspension. He appealed the two year suspension, though, and was lucky to get it reduced to 1 year with the last 6 months stayed, which means in practical terms he could go back to practice in 6 months. 

You can read the opinion here

More interestingly, particularly if you are interested in the issue of how courts decide what is the proper level of sanction to impose for particular types of conduct, you can watch the video of the oral argument, during which the lawyers and justices discuss the lawyer's conduct, and the basis for the sanction.

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