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Lakewood Attorney's License Suspended

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2011-2038. Cleveland Metro. Bar Assn. v. Kelly, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-2715.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 11-037.  Thomas R. Kelly, Attorney Registration No. 0040319, is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Ohio.
O'Connor, C.J., and Lundberg Stratton, Lanzinger, Cupp, and McGee Brown, JJ., concur.
Pfeifer and O'Donnell, JJ., dissent and would impose a two-year suspension, with one year stayed on condition, as recommended by the board.
Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2012/2012-Ohio-2715.pdf

(June 20, 2012) The Supreme Court of Ohio has indefinitely suspended the law license of former Lakewood attorney Thomas R. Kelly for neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him by a client and failing to cooperate with the investigation of his misconduct.

In a 5-2 per curiam decision announced today, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that Kelly accepted a $1,000 retainer to represent a client in a divorce case, and later solicited and received an additional $200 to cover filing fees, but never filed a divorce petition, stopped responding to his client’s messages and phone calls, and failed to refund his unearned legal fees when the client requested that he do so.

The court adopted the board’s conclusion that Kelly was guilty of neglecting an entrusted legal matter, and also found that he had violated the state disciplinary rules that require an attorney to comply with a client’s  reasonable requests for information, and that prohibit charging an illegal or clearly excessive fee and failing to promptly refund unearned fees after withdrawing from employment.

In light of these violations, Kelly’s earlier suspension for failing to complete Supreme Court attorney registration requirements for the 2009-2011 period, and his failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities investigating the grievances against him, the court found that the appropriate sanction was an indefinite license suspension.

The majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Robert R. Cupp and Yvette McGee Brown.  Justice Paul E. Pfeifer and Terrence O’Donnell dissented, stating that they would impose the penalty recommended by the disciplinary board, which was a two-year suspension with the second year stayed on the condition that Kelly make restitution of the $1,200 he received from his client.

Patrick Haggerty, 216.551.1660, for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.

Thomas Kelly, 216.683.4850.