ethics

Former Judge Burge Law License Suspended

On August 13, 2018, the Supreme Court of Ohio suspended the law license of former Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge James M. Burge.  Burge was convicted of crimes related to his failure to disclose his interest in office buildings on his financial disclosure forms while sitting on the bench and then assigning paid legal work to attorneys who rented office space from him.

Burge was suspended for one year with six (6) months stayed.  He was also given credit for three (3) months and three (3) weeks that he had served under an interim suspension issued in April 2015 for his convictions for tampering with records and falsification.

The Supreme Court of Ohio deemed the sanction given sufficient since Burge’s misconduct occurred while he was on the bench and he has resigned from the bench.  It believes Burge’s misconduct will not recur.  In Ohio, a judge must have a license to practice law in good standing to maintain his position on the bench.

While a sitting judge, Burge was charged with 12 counts of criminal conduct.  A jury convicted him of three misdemeanor falsification charges and three felony tampering charges.  A visiting judge dismissed the remainder of the charges.  One month later, the felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors.

Burge also made disparaging remarks to convicted criminals appearing before him.  He told one man he “would have paid 50 bucks to give you a beating before you went.”  To another man, he remarked:  “Now if I were to believe you were that stupid, James, I would just have Deputy Motelewski shoot you right now, because I know you’re not going to make it through life.”  In a letter written on court stationery, Burge characterized the proposed bill of a former General Assembly representative as “nothing more than the hobgoblin of a small-minded, mouth-breathing, Tea Party type whose political style and abilities uniquely qualify him to do nothing.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Kennedy’s dissent stated that she would have imposed a two-year suspension with one year stayed for such conduct.

Disciplinary Counsel v. Burge, 2019-Ohio-3205.

ethics

Alice Auclair Jones: Ohio Supreme Court Says No UPL

Today, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that bar applicant Alice Auclair Jones was not engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.  You may remember this from my September 17, 2018 blog post.

Ms. Jones is a Kentucky attorney who relocated to her firm’s Ohio offices while her application for an Ohio license to practice law was pending.  From the Ohio office, Ms. Jones provided legal services to her clients living in Kentucky and appeared in Kentucky courts.  Because she prepared legal documents in Ohio, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Board of Commissioners on Character & Fitness ruled that Ms. Jones was practicing law without a license.  It recommended that Ms. Jones’s application for an Ohio license be denied as she lacked the requisite character and fitness for bar membership.

The Supreme Court of Ohio disagreed stating that Ms. Jones was providing legal services in Ohio temporarily and in compliance with Ohio Prof.Cond.R. 5.5 pending approval of her application for an Ohio law license.  It, therefore, held that Ms. Jones was not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and that she has the requisite character and fitness for bar membership.  It approved her application for a license to practice law in Ohio.

The Supreme Court held that “[a] lawyer who applies for admission without examination to the Ohio bar in accordance with Gov.Bar R. I(9) and thereafter provides legal services from Ohio in the jurisdiction where that applicant is already admitted to practice law pending the resolution of that application is providing services on a temporary basis because those services are transitory and will continue until the application is resolved.”

Thankfully, the Ohio Supreme Court has interpreted Ohio Prof.Cond.R. 5.5(c) to allow lawyers residing in Ohio and licensed in other jurisdictions to continue practicing the law of those other jurisdictions from an Ohio office so long as an application for admission to the Ohio bar is pending.

To read the opinion, click below:

https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2018/2018-Ohio-4182.pdf