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Akron Attorney Indefinitely Suspended from Practice

2009-1522.  Akron Bar Assn. v. Smithern, Slip Opinion No. 2010-Ohio-652.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 08-036.  Michelle A. Smithern, Attorney Registration No. 0032850, is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Ohio, with credit for time served under the interim suspension imposed on February 17, 2009.
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/0/2010/2010-Ohio-652.pdf Adobe PDF Link opens new window.

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(March 3, 2010) The Supreme Court of Ohio today imposed an indefinite suspension against  the law license of Akron attorney Michelle A. Smithern for misappropriating more than $100,000 from her law firm by depositing retainer fees she received from 32 clients into her own personal bank account rather than the firm’s accounts. Smithern has been under an interim license suspension  since February 2009, when the Court was notified of her conviction on a felony theft charge.

In today’s 7-0 per curiam decision, the Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Smithern’s actions violated the state attorney discipline rules that  prohibit conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and conduct that adversely reflects on an attorney’s fitness to practice law; and that require an attorney to preserve the identity of client funds in his or her possession.

The Court adopted the disciplinary board’s recommendation that Smithern be credited with the time she has been under interim suspension. As prior conditions for future reinstatement of her license, the Court ordered that Smithern must complete the term of probation imposed for her criminal conviction, enter into and comply with a contract with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance program to address gambling and alcohol addictions that contributed to her misconduct, must comply with a settlement agreement to repay her law firm’s insurer for losses arising from her thefts, and must receive a prognosis from a qualified healthcare professional that she is able to return to the competent and ethical practice of law.

Nathan A. Ray, 330.253.7171, for the Akron Bar Association.

Charles E. Grisi, 330.535.8171, for Michelle Smithern.

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