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Cincinnati Bar Association v. Dearfield.

October 19, 2011

CINCINNATI BAR ASSOCIATION V. DEARFIELD.


ON CERTIFIED REPORT of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court, No. 10-036.

Per curiam.

[Until this opinion appears in the Ohio Official Reports advance sheets, it may be cited as Cincinnati Bar Assn.

v.

Dearfield, Slip Opinion No. 2011-Ohio-5295.]

NOTICE

This slip opinion is subject to formal revision before it is published in an advance sheet of the Ohio Official Reports. Readers are requested to promptly notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 South Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, of any typographical or other formal errors in the opinion, in order that corrections may be made before the opinion is published.

SLIP OPINION NO. 2011-OHIO-5295

[Until this opinion appears in the Ohio Official Reports advance sheets, it may be cited as Cincinnati Bar Assn. v. Dearfield, Slip Opinion No. 2011-Ohio-5295.]

(--Submitted May 25, 2011--)

Attorneys at law--Misconduct--Failure to deposit unearned fees in a trust account--Designating a fee as nonrefundable--Conditioning refund on client's withdrawal of grievance--Failure to cooperate as aggravating factor--Stayed suspension.

{¶1} Respondent, G. Timothy Dearfield of Loveland, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0039684, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1988. On April 12, 2010, relator, the Cincinnati Bar Association, filed a complaint charging Dearfield with violating the Rules of Professional Conduct with regard his representation of Jeffery M. Hallet. On May 11, 2010, Dearfield filed an answer denying the alleged violations. The case was heard before a panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court of Ohio. After finding that Dearfield violated several Rules of Professional Conduct, the board recommends a one-year suspension with six months stayed. We hold that a one-year stayed suspension is the proper sanction.

I. Misconduct

{¶2} Jeffery Hallet hired Dearfield to file bankruptcy on his behalf. Dearfield's standard charges were $3,274 for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which included a $700 retainer and $274 in court costs, and $1,099 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which included an $800 retainer and $299 in court costs. Hallet signed an agreement with Dearfield that stated: "All retainer payments are good for one year from the date made and will be credited to the attorney fees and court costs then applicable for the filing. Any monies paid on retainer are nonrefundable except in unusual circumstances and only at the discretion of an attorney employed by the Law Firm." (Emphasis added.)

{¶3} On June 30, 2009, Hallet wrote Dearfield a $700 check for "bankruptcy filing." Approximately two weeks later, Hallet wrote an additional $399 check to Dearfield for "court costs." Both checks were deposited in Dearfield's usual business account.

{ΒΆ4} Hallet and Dearfield had numerous conversations as to whether Hallet should file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Eventually, Hallet decided not to file bankruptcy, because he had negotiated a payment plan with his creditors. Thus, Hallet sent a letter dated August 15, 2009, discharging Dearfield as his bankruptcy attorney ...


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