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Supreme Court Disbars Former Fairfield County Municipal Judge, Suspends Attorney

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In separate disciplinary actions announced today, the Supreme Court of Ohio permanently disbarred former Fairfield County Municipal Court Judge Don S. McAuliffe, and indefinitely suspended the license of attorney Robert S. Spector of Garfield Heights.

2008-1200.  Disciplinary Counsel v. McAuliffe, Slip Opinion No. 2009-Ohio-1151.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 05-037.  Don S. McAuliffe, Attorney Registration No. 0014629, is permanently disbarred from the practice of law in Ohio.
Moyer, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, O'Connor, O'Donnell, Lanzinger, and Cupp, JJ., concur.

(March 19, 2009) The Supreme Court of Ohio today permanently revoked the law license of former Fairfield County Municipal Court Judge Don S. McAuliffe for multiple violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct arising from his criminal conduct in burning down a house he owned in order to defraud an insurance company. McAuliffe has been under an interim license suspension since the Court was notified of his 2004 felony convictions on federal charges of mail fraud, conspiracy, use of fire to commit mail fraud and money laundering

Because the professional misconduct charges against McAuliffe arose from his criminal convictions, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline granted his request to stay its disciplinary proceedings against him until his appeals contesting those convictions had been adjudicated in the federal court system. That process was finally completed in late 2007, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming his convictions.

In today’s decision, the Court adopted the commissioners’ findings that McAuliffe had violated the state attorney discipline rules that prohibit illegal conduct involving moral turpitude; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and conduct that reflects adversely on an attorney’s fitness to practice. The Court also found violations of the state judicial conduct rules that require judges to comply with the law at all times and to avoid impropriety.

In affirming the board’s recommendation of permanent disbarment as the appropriate sanction, the Court reiterated its holding in a 1998 judicial discipline case that:  “When a judge’s felonious conduct brings disrepute to the judicial system, the institution is irreparably harmed. ... By this sanction, we aim to protect both the public and the integrity of the judicial system itself.”

Jonathan E. Coughlan, 614.461.0256, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

David J. Graeff, 614.226.5991, for Donald McAuliffe.

2008-2383.  Cleveland Metro. Bar Assn. v. Spector, Slip Opinion No. 2009-Ohio-1155.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 08-069.  Robert S. Spector, Attorney Registration No. 0012657, is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Ohio.
Moyer, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, O'Connor, O'Donnell, Lanzinger, and Cupp, JJ., concur.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2009/2009-Ohio-1155.pdf

(March 19, 2009) The Supreme Court of Ohio today imposed an indefinite license suspension against Garfield Heights attorney Robert S. Spector for neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him by a client, lying to the client about the status of her case, failing to return the client’s unearned fee advance and failing to respond to inquiries or otherwise cooperate with disciplinary authorities investigating his misconduct.

The Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Spector, whose license has been under an administrative suspension since December 2007 for failure to comply with state attorney registration requirements, violated multiple disciplinary rules when he failed to file a petition for relief from a civil judgment on behalf of a client after accepting a $320 fee to do so. The Court found that Spector engaged in conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation when he falsely responded to an inquiry from the client by telling her that he had made the required filing but the court had misplaced it, and later falsely told her that he would immediately make the necessary filing but never did so.

In imposing an indefinite suspension as the sanction for his misconduct, the Court noted that Spector’s neglect and deceit resulted in his client’s inability to obtain a mortgage because of the continuing record of a judgment against her, and also cited his violation of the state bar governance rule that requires attorneys to cooperate with disciplinary proceedings.

Frank Osborne, 216.696.3536, for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.

Robert Spector, pro se: 216.332.9280.