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Disciplinary Counsel v. Furtado

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 20, 2017

Disciplinary Counsel
v.
Furtado.

          Submitted June 7, 2017

         On Final Report by the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law of the Supreme Court, No. UPL 16-02.

          Scott J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, and Stacy Solochek Beckman, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.

          PER CURIAM

         {¶ 1} On April 19, 2016, relator, disciplinary counsel, filed a complaint with the Board of Commissioners on the Unauthorized Practice of Law alleging that respondent, Lorraine Theresa Furtado, of Columbus, Ohio, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by preparing or modifying multiple estate-planning documents for a single client in 2012 and 2013. In accordance with Gov.Bar R. VII(6), a copy of the complaint along with notice of the right to file an answer was sent to Furtado by certified mail on April 21, 2016. At that time, the complaint was also sent to Furtado by regular mail. Although the certified mail to Furtado was returned to the board "unclaimed" on May 23, 2016, the regular mail was not returned. Therefore, pursuant to Gov.Bar R. VII(10), service is deemed complete. However, Furtado has failed to answer the complaint or otherwise appear in the proceedings.

         {¶ 2} We agree that Furtado engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and that an injunction and civil penalties are warranted.

         Furtado's Conduct

         {¶ 3} Furtado is a former Ohio attorney. She was admitted to the practice of law in November 1986 and, in 1994, we suspended her license for two years based on her federal conviction for embezzling government funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. 641. Disciplinary Counsel v. Furtado, 71 Ohio St.3d 20, 641 N.E.2d 184 (1994). We reinstated her license in October 1997. Disciplinary Counsel v. Furtado, 80 Ohio St.3d 1210, 686 N.E.2d 522 (1997). And on May 3, 2000, we accepted Furtado's affidavit of resignation with disciplinary action pending. In re Resignation of Furtado, 89 Ohio St.3d 1206, 728 N.E.2d 1083 (2000). That resignation is unconditional, final, and irrevocable. See Gov.Bar R. VI(11)(A)(1)(c).

         {¶ 4} Beginning in May 2012, Furtado drafted multiple estate-planning documents for Corlyss Richards, including a durable power of attorney, a durable healthcare power of attorney and living will, a memorandum of trust, an amendment to a family trust agreement, and a last will and testament. She also counseled Richards on several issues with regard to the trust of Richards's father. Richards paid Furtado $8, 670 for her services through August 2013. This money has not been returned despite Richards's demands for a refund.

         Furtado Engaged in the Unauthorized Practice of Law

         {¶ 5} The Supreme Court of Ohio has original jurisdiction regarding admission to the practice of law, the discipline of persons so admitted, and all other matters relating to the practice of law in Ohio. Article IV, Section 2(B)(1)(g), Ohio Constitution; Royal Indemn. Co. v. J.C Penney Co., Inc., 27 Ohio St.3d 31, 34, 501 N.E.2d 617 (1986). Accordingly, this court has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the unauthorized practice of law in Ohio. Greenspan v. Third Fed. S & L. Assn., 122 Ohio St.3d 455, 2009-Ohio-3508, 912 N.E.2d 567, ¶ 16; Lorain Cty. Bar Assn. v. Kocak, 121 Ohio St.3d 396, 2009-Ohio-1430, 904 N.E.2d 885, ¶ 16. The purpose of that regulation is to "protect the public against incompetence, divided loyalties, and other attendant evils that are often associated with unskilled representation." Cleveland Bar Assn. v. CompManagement, Inc., 104 Ohio St.3d 168, 2004-Ohio-6506, 818 N.E.2d 1181, ¶ 40.

         {¶ 6} The unauthorized practice of law is the rendering of legal services for another by any person not admitted or otherwise certified to practice law in Ohio. Gov.Bar R. VII(2)(A)(1). This includes the " 'preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings and the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts.' " Land Title Abstract & Trust Co. v. Dworken, 129 Ohio St. 23, 28, 193 N.E. 650 (1934), quoting People v. Alfani, 227 N.Y. 334, 337-338, 125 N.E. 671 (1919).

         {¶ 7} An individual whose affidavit of resignation with disciplinary action pending has been accepted by this court is no longer authorized to practice law in this state. See Gov.Bar R. VI(11)(A) through (C). And an individual who is not authorized to practice law in this state who gives legal advice and prepares wills, trusts, and powers of attorney is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. See Disciplinary Counsel v. Goetz, 107 Ohio St.3d 22, 2005-Ohio-5830, 836 N.E.2d 556, ¶ 9.

         {¶ 8} Because relator submitted sworn or certified documentary prima facie evidence demonstrating that Furtado modified and drafted estate-planning documents after resigning from the practice of law with disciplinary action pending, the board found that she engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. See Gov.Bar R. VII(2)(A)(2)(b). We ...


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