Legal Ethics

Cleveland lawyer is suspended after client secretly recorded his bragging about discovery game

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A Cleveland lawyer has been indefinitely suspended after a client secretly recorded his conversation bragging about ignoring the opposing counsel’s discovery requests and calling her “an arrogant bitch.”

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended lawyer Steven Jerome Moody on Thursday, report and Court News Ohio in a summary noted by the Legal Profession Blog.

Moody was representing a client who sued PNC Inc. for alleged job bias, according to the court’s opinion. The opposing lawyer, Siobhan Sweeney of Boston, had served Moody with interrogatories and served notice of a deposition, but Moody didn’t respond. Sweeney rescheduled the deposition and flew to Cleveland to attend. Neither Moody nor the client showed up. Soon after, Moody called Sweeney and said he couldn’t make the deposition and would need to reschedule.

When Moody met with the client to prepare him for the third scheduled deposition, the client secretly recorded him. Among the comments Moody admitted making about discovery and the opposing lawyer:

• “She sent me an interrogatory, request for production of documents, I completely ignored her ass for a few months. And I made her file a motion to compel, and then I called her and said, oh, yeah, I’ll get them to you in two weeks. And then I completely ignored her ass again.”

• “In this particular case, what I would do is, because we’re fighting the bank, right, I would f— with this person at this stage.”

• “She’s an arrogant bitch, okay?” and, “I made that bitch fly into town” for the missed deposition.

• “Obviously, you know, you don’t want to discuss that I played a game with her, you know. But that’s basically it.”

• “She might ask you, do you know that your attorney didn’t send any discovery, do you know that you were supposed to be here on, whatever the—she had one or two dates. Did your attorney tell you that you were supposed to be present for those depositions? Yes.”

Moody said his failure to comply with the discovery requests was actually inadvertent because he was trying to keep track of all his communications on a cellphone while transitioning from a brick-and-mortar office to a virtual office. Moody said he was only “puffing” to boost his client’s confidence in him and to demonstrate he had the upper hand in litigation.

Moody also said he had advised his client once or twice to tell the truth, and that negated his instruction to say “yes” if asked whether Moody had told him about the first two attempted depositions.

Moody said he had disavowed his statements in an unrecorded part of the conversation, an assertion denied by the client.

The Ohio Supreme Court said a hearing panel had found Moody’s testimony lacked credibility and there was ample evidence of misconduct.

The Ohio Supreme Court said Moody’s explanation that he lied in an effort to increase his client’s confidence actually had the opposite effect. The client said he was “kind of mind-boggled” that Moody asked him to lie, and he decided to fire Moody because he didn’t want to be part of his deceit.

“Regardless of whether Moody’s statements to [the client] were true or false,” the state supreme court said, “they raise questions about his integrity and his ability to conduct himself in a manner that engenders respect for the law and the profession.”

Two dissenting justices said they would have suspended Moody for only two years.

Moody told the ABA Journal that he will be able to reapply to join the bar in two years and he will do that. He declined to comment further.

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