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June 18, 2012
Disciplinary Changes Adopted

The Supreme Court of Ohio has adopted rule amendments today that refine the existing default judgment process when a lawyer fails to comply with his professional duty to respond to disciplinary charges.

Recommended by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, the changes are intended to meet two goals:

The amendments to the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio concern Rule 5 Disciplinary Procedure and new Section 6a Default; Interim Default Suspension. They take effect August 1. The amendments were published for public comment in March.

Under the amendments, the secretary to the board would be required to certify the respondent’s default to the Ohio Supreme Court “within a reasonable period of time after the date the answer was due.” The court would have the authority to order an interim default suspension that would remain in effect for at least six months. The interim suspension could be lifted if the respondent files a motion for leave to answer the formal complaint and if the court remands the matter to the board for hearing. The entity bringing the misconduct charges also could initiate default disbarment proceedings during the first six-month period if it believes the respondent’s misconduct is so serious as to merit the permanent loss of his or her license to practice law.

If no motions are filed within six months, the interim default suspension would be converted to an indefinite suspension that would prevent the lawyer from seeking reinstatement to the practice of law for a minimum of two years.

In addition, changes to the board’s probable cause process allow more flexibility in reviewing and certifying complaints. Specifically, probable cause panels would meet between full board meetings and eliminate delays between when complaints are filed and certified.

Click here to view the amendments.