Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cincinnati Bar Association v. Bell

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 19, 2017

Cincinnati Bar Association
v.
Bell.

          Submitted August 29, 2017

         On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2016-056.

          Carrie Dettmer Slye; Nicholas A. Zingarelli; and Edwin W. Patterson III, for relator.

          Alvertis W. Bishop Jr., for respondent.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, William Douglass Bell Sr., of Cincinnati, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0027596, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1977. In 2016, relator, Cincinnati Bar Association, charged him with violating several professional-conduct rules while representing a landlord in two eviction cases. After a hearing, the Board of Professional Conduct issued a report finding that Bell engaged in the charged misconduct and recommending that we sanction him with a public reprimand. For the reasons explained below, we accept the board's recommendation and publicly reprimand Bell for his misconduct.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 2} In 2014, Bell represented Levie Smith and his property-management company in the Hamilton County Municipal Court in two eviction cases involving one of Smith's former tenants. Bell's representation of Smith, however, led to a fee dispute between the lawyer and his client, and in the fee-dispute case, the municipal court determined that Bell owed Smith damages for settling the eviction cases without Smith's consent.

         {¶ 3} Specifically, the court found that although Bell testified that he thought he had authority from Smith to settle the cases, Smith had not consented to the terms of any settlement agreement. Nevertheless, Bell settled the matters and agreed that $560 of the tenant's escrowed rent would be returned to the tenant and the remaining balance of $2, 507 would be paid to Smith. When Bell attempted to deliver the settlement check to Smith, Smith refused to sign it, claiming that his damages exceeded the settlement amount.

         {¶ 4} The court found that Bell breached his contract with Smith by settling the cases without Smith's consent and that Bell therefore owed his client $3, 067, the full amount of the escrowed rent funds. However, the court also found that Bell was entitled to $1, 000 in attorney fees for his work. The court therefore awarded a net judgment to Smith in the amount of $2, 067. To resolve all their claims, Bell and Smith later agreed that Smith would simply accept the $2, 507 settlement check from the eviction cases as satisfaction of the judgment, which resulted in Bell essentially waiving any attorney fees for the case.

         {¶ 5} According to relator, the judge in the fee-dispute case forwarded his judgment entry to relator, which commenced this disciplinary proceeding. After Bell's disciplinary hearing, the board found that Bell had, in fact, obtained an excellent result for Smith and that Smith had not been prejudiced by Bell's conduct. Nonetheless, because Bell admitted that he settled the matters without Smith's consent, the board found that Bell violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.2(a) (requiring a lawyer to abide by the client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation and to consult with the client as to means by which they are to be pursued) and 1.4(a)(1) (requiring a lawyer to inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client's informed consent is required).

         {¶ 6} Bell also admitted that although he informed Smith that he lacked malpractice insurance, he failed to have Smith sign the written notice required by the professional-conduct rules. Therefore, the board also found that Bell violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(c) (requiring a lawyer to inform the client if the lawyer does not maintain professional-liability insurance and obtain a signed acknowledgment of that notice from the client).

         {¶ 7} We agree with the board's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.