Legal Ethics

Lawyer is suspended for 'disturbing pattern of neglect,' fee sharing with disability group

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A Cincinnati lawyer has been indefinitely suspended from law practice in an opinion that said he had shown “a disturbing pattern of neglect” as well as “a flagrant disobedience of court orders.”

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended the lawyer, Robert H. Hoskins, in a decision (PDF) on Tuesday, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer and an article by Court News Ohio that is posted at the Legal Profession Blog.

Hoskins was accused of mishandling or neglecting client matters, as well as sharing fees with a disability group that referred him cases. The group had not registered with the state as a lawyer-referral service and had not complied with regulations for such services. The supreme court summarized the findings of fact.

In one case, Hoskins had filed Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 cases for a client that were dismissed because of multiple deficiencies. He sought to reopen the Chapter 13 case, then moved to withdraw the motion without the client’s knowledge or consent, according to the state supreme court. He was also fined $500 for failing to appear at a contempt hearing on his failure to appear at another court hearing with the client.

In a second case, Hoskins failed to prepare an order to divide marital assets despite numerous requests that he do so. In a third, he did not return a retainer after the client fired him. In a fourth, he never gave the client a signed copy of a contingency fee agreement; did not communicate with her; and did not supply the her file until nine months after she fired him.

The court also noted that Hoskins was found in contempt for apparently continuing to practice law during a prior suspension.

Hoskins had maintained his missteps were not indicative of his usual practice and sought a stayed 12-month suspension. The Ohio Supreme Court turned said the penalty was too light.

According to the court, Hoskins did not “appreciate the magnitude of his own misconduct—even though it touches virtually every aspect of his practice, including how he attracts clients, his fee agreements with those clients, where he deposits the money he receives from his clients, how he communicates (or fails to communicate) with them, whether he returns their files or the unearned portion of their fees upon the termination of his representation, how he interacts with the courts in handling their legal matters, and how he conducts himself in his own dealings with the court.

“His misconduct demonstrates a disturbing pattern of neglect and an ongoing failure to comply with established rules and procedures—not to mention a flagrant disobedience of court orders and a troubling propensity to engage in dishonesty when his actions are questioned,” the opinion said.

Hoskins acknowledged he made some mistakes in a brief interview with the ABA Journal. “I’ve got depression problems,” he said, “and I’m getting treatment for depression and I’m going to see if I can get better and seek reinstatement.”

Hoskins also said the “relentless prosecution aspect” of his legal ethics troubles “certainly took away from my mental well-being.” He was initially suspended for 60 days in Kentucky, and Ohio followed with a reciprocal suspension. The June 28 suspension followed a new disciplinary complaint.

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