Legal Ethics

Lawyer Gets 1-Year Suspension for Taking Client's Cars, Money and Browns Tickets, Plus Bogus Billing

Rejecting an agreed one-year law license suspension, with six months stayed, the Ohio Supreme Court has put a attorney on the sidelines for two years, with 12 months of that penalty stayed, for a litany of misconduct that displayed “a selfish indifference to his professional obligations” to a client in a murder case.

Retained to represent Lawrence Jameson in 2007, attorney Robert Bernal Scott persuaded his client to give him a power of attorney and an ATM card. Scott then took $3,500 from Jameson’s bank account in $500 increments and another $24,000 from his client’s 401(K) retirement account, which he deposited into his law firm’s business account, and obtained title to his client’s 1983 Porsche 928 and 1990 Cadillac Fleetwood by having his client sign the titles over to him in blank, the court said in a slip opinion (PDF) today.

Although Scott claimed that he took two tickets to a Cleveland Browns game from Jameson’s home in order to present them as evidence at trial, the court notes that Scott used them to attend the game with a friend.

The opinion also notes that he submitted bills for time he allegedly spent conferring with his jailed client when jail records did not show he had been signed in as a visitor during nearly half of the time for which Scott had billed.

Scott was found to have violated ethical rules against accounting for client funds and fabricating evidence, among others. However, he also cooperated with the investigation, acknowledged wrongdoing and made restitution.

He is a graduate of the University of Toledo College of Law and has been in practice since 2001.

The opinion doesn’t indicate what happened to Jameson. However, a Toledo Blade article says he pleaded guilty in 2008 to murder on the second day of trial, while represented by Scott, and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

On the first day, Scott told the jury the facts of the case, as presented by the government, were not in dispute, but argued that his client had been provoked before shooting his girlfriend once in the head and once in the chest with a 9mm handgun, according to the article.

Hat tip: Reuters.

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