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Supreme Court Disbars Toledo and Fostoria Attorneys, Suspends Two

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In rulings on four separate lawyer discipline cases today, the Supreme Court permanently disbarred attorneys Richard M. Neller of Toledo and Paul W. Allison of Fostoria, and indefinitely suspended the licenses of Henry B. Bruner of Chagrin Falls and Robert J. Garrity of Lakewood.

2002-1775. Toledo Bar Assn. v. Neller, 2003-Ohio-774.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court, No. 02-19.
Richard M. Neller is permanently disbarred.
Moyer, C.J., Resnick, F.E. Sweeney, Pfeifer, Cook, Lundberg Stratton and O'Connor, JJ., concur.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/newpdf/0/2003/2003-Ohio-370.pdf Adobe PDF Link opens new window.

(March 5, 2003) The court voted unanimously to permanently disbar Richard Neller of Toledo for his involvement in a criminal conspiracy to distribute cocaine, marijuana and heroin, and associated violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility. A former criminal defense lawyer whose clients included accused drug dealers, in December 1996 Neller was convicted on five felony counts arising from participation in illegal drug-related activity. He has been under an interim license suspension since 1997 as a result of those convictions.

The disciplinary action resulting in today's disbarment was brought by the Toledo Bar Association in April 2002, following Neller's release from prison.

In its decision, the court noted factors in mitigation of Neller's misconduct, including numerous character references and his contributions to the Toledo community as an advocate for Hispanics and other minorities.

In adopting the recommendation of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that it impose its most severe disciplinary penalty, the court concluded that, "Notwithstanding the outpouring of support from his colleagues and acquaintances, no mitigating circumstances can undo the harm of (Neller's) integral role in this drug ring. Disbarment is the commensurate sanction."

Contacts
Bonnie Rankin, 419.242.4011, Christopher Parker and Jonathan Cherry for the Toledo Bar Association.

Charles Boss, 419.893.5555 for Richard Neller.

2002-1779. Disciplinary Counsel v. Allison, 2003-Ohio-776.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court, No. 02-06.
Paul Wesley Allison is permanently disbarred.
Moyer, C.J., Resnick, F.E. Sweeney, Pfeifer, Cook, Lundberg Stratton and O'Connor, JJ., concur.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/newpdf/0/2003/2003-Ohio-370.pdf Adobe PDF Link opens new window.

(March 5, 2003) The justices voted 7-0 to permanently disbar attorney Paul Allison of Fostoria for several violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The charges included paying himself $19,600 in fees from a client's estate although only $4,540 had been authorized by the local probate court, and then failing to comply with a court order to repay the excessive charges. Allison also was cited for two instances of practicing without a license in 2001, during a period when his license was under suspension for a previous disciplinary offense.

Contacts
Jonathan E. Coughlan, 614.461.0256 or 800.589.5256 for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Paul W. Allison pro se.

2002-1474. Geauga Cty. Bar Assn. v. Bruner, 2003-Ohio-736.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court, No. 02-05.
Henry B. Bruner is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law.
Moyer, C.J., Resnick, Pfeifer, Cook, Lundberg Stratton and O'Connor, JJ., concur.
F.E. Sweeney, J., dissents.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/newpdf/0/2003/2003-Ohio-370.pdf Adobe PDF Link opens new window.

(March 5, 2003) Chagrin Falls lawyer Henry Bruner was indefinitely suspended from practice in a case prosecuted by the Geauga County Bar Association. Bruner was cited for violating multiple disciplinary rules by withholding more than $42,000 in payroll taxes from the wages of his secretary over a 10-year period, but keeping the withheld funds himself rather than reporting and paying them to the Internal Revenue Service on his employee's behalf.

The court voted 6-1 to accept the recommendation of Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Bruner receive an indefinite suspension, rather than a less severe penalty, because of the extended period over which the misconduct took place and Bruner's providing the secretary with false withholding documents. Justice Francis E. Sweeney dissented from the majority decision, favoring a two-year license suspension. Bruner will not be eligible to apply for reinstatement of his license until after March 5, 2005.

Contacts
Bruce C. Smalheer and Emil F. Sos, 404.729.1252 for the Geauga County Bar Association.

Henry B. Bruner, pro se.

2002-1776. Disciplinary Counsel v. Garrity, 2003-Ohio-740.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court, No. 01-93.
Robert J. Garrity is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law.
Moyer, C.J., Resnick, F.E. Sweeney, Pfeifer, Cook, Lundberg Stratton and O'Connor, JJ., concur.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/newpdf/0/2003/2003-Ohio-370.pdf Adobe PDF Link opens new window.

(March 5, 2003) The court voted unanimously to indefinitely suspend the license of Lakewood attorney Robert Garrity.

Their decision adopts findings by disciplinary commissioners that Garrity, a former pharmacist as well as an attorney, pleaded guilty in 2001 to five felony counts of theft of prescription drugs from a pharmacy where he was employed. His law license has been under interim suspension since October 2001 as a result of the felony convictions.

In its decision, the court noted factors in mitigation of Garrity's misconduct, including that he has maintained sobriety since January 2001, made full restitution to his former employer, did not injure clients by his misconduct and has become an active volunteer in programs helping others recover from substance abuse problems.

The court voted to accept the commissioners' recommendation that Garrity be indefinitely suspended-- with the condition that he submit to periodic drug screening as recommended by the commission. He will be eligible to apply for reinstatement after March 5, 2005.

Contacts
Jonathan E. Coughlan 614.461.0256 or 800.589.5256 for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

John A. Fatica, 216.696.2348 for Robert Garrity.