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Legal Ethics

‘Unscrupulous Procedural Tactics’ Result In 12-Month License Suspension for Ohio Divorce Lawyer

Posted Mar 8, 2012 1:20 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Saying that an Ohio divorce lawyer had engaged in "a course of conduct that was replete with dishonest, deceptive, and disrespectful acts" as a practitioner, the state supreme court today unanimously agreed that his law license should be suspended for 12 months.

The court found that attorney Joseph G. Stafford, among other conduct, was dishonest with the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court when he filed an ex parte motion to amend a complaint in a divorce case and recklessly accused a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge of intimidation in response to the judge's determination that Stafford should not represent a client because of a conflict of interest, WKYC reports.

The court also said in a slip opinion (PDF) that it "reject[ed] Stafford's contention that the ultimate settling of the case somehow legitimized his unscrupulous procedural tactics."

In a separate concurring opinion, several members of the court addressed the bench and bar concerning a contention by Stafford's counsel that ex parte communications were commonplace in the domestic relations court. Discussions between a judge and a representative of only one party in a case are prohibited and subject to sanction, that opinion notes.

"Counsel and judges are reminded of their obligation to adhere to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct in this regard and to avoid the appearance of impropriety," it states.

The article doesn't include any comment from Stafford or his counsel.

Updated at 3:10 p.m. to link to slip opinion.

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