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Norwalk Attorney Suspended

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2011-1036.  Erie-Huron Counties Joint Certified Grievance Commt. v. Derby, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-78.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 10-061. Charles Paul Derby of Norwalk, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0055272, is suspended from the  practice of law in Ohio for two years, with the final 18 months stayed on the conditions.
O'Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, O'Donnell, Lanzinger, Cupp, and McGee Brown, JJ., concur.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2012/2012-Ohio-78.pdf

(Jan. 17, 2012) The Supreme Court of Ohio has suspended the law license of Norwalk attorney Charles P. Derby for two years, with 18 months of that term stayed on conditions, for neglecting the bankruptcy cases of eight different clients between 2007 and 2009. 

In a 7-0 per curiam decision announced today, the Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that in each of the eight cases Derby accepted fee advances from clients to pursue personal bankruptcy proceedings on their behalf, but either failed to prepare a bankruptcy petition or filed a petition but then failed to complete additional steps necessary to advance the client’s claims.

Derby entered into joint stipulations with the Erie-Huron County Grievance Committee admitting that in each case he violated the state attorney discipline rules that require an attorney to exercise reasonable diligence in representing clients, to keep clients advised about the status of their cases, to reply promptly to client inquiries and to advise clients in writing that he was not covered by professional malpractice insurance.

The Court noted that in the months before his rule violations began, Derby’s wife, who also served as his law office assistant, became gravely ill and died, and that Derby subsequently experienced severe financial problems, began to abuse alcohol and lost his home to foreclosure.  In setting the sanction for his misconduct, the Court cited the mitigating factors that Derby had no prior disciplinary sanctions, had made restitution to seven of the eight clients whose cases he neglected and had undertaken a recovery program under the supervision of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP).

The Court specified that, after serving the initial six months of his suspension, Derby’s reinstatement would be conditioned on a number of factors including renewal and continuing compliance with his OLAP recovery contract, and certification by a psychiatrist that he was capable of returning to the competent and ethical practice of law.

Ronald Slipski, 330.797.0086, for the Erie-Huron Counties Certified Grievance Committee.

Charles P. Derby, pro se, 419.677.3753.