Submitted August 29, 2017
Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the
Supreme Court, No. 2015-075.
J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, and Audrey E. Varwig,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.
Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter Co., L.P.A., Christopher J.
Weber, and Jason H. Beehler, for respondent.
1} Respondent, Steven Powell Schnittke of New
Lexington, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0025537, was
admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1975.
2} In a complaint certified to the Board of
Professional Conduct on December 10, 2015, relator,
disciplinary counsel, alleged that Schnittke committed
multiple ethical violations by failing to file briefs in
three criminal cases in which he was appointed to serve as
appellate counsel. The parties submitted stipulations of
facts, misconduct, and aggravating and mitigating factors.
They also agreed to dismiss three alleged violations and
jointly recommended that Schnittke be suspended from the
practice of law for six months with the entire suspension
stayed. The panel of the board appointed to hear the matter
granted the parties' motion to waive the hearing and
adopted their stipulations, but it rejected the parties'
stipulated sanction in favor of a public reprimand. The board
agreed, but in December 2016, we remanded the matter to the
board for further proceedings-including the consideration of
a more severe sanction. Disciplinary Counsel v.
Schnittke, 147 Ohio St.3d 1461, 2016-Ohio-8162, 65
3} On remand, the parties supplemented their
stipulations with three letters attesting to Schnittke's
good character, community leadership, and dedication to the
practice of law in Perry County. After hearing testimony from
Schnittke and two character witnesses, the panel adopted the
parties' stipulations, made additional findings of fact,
and recommended that Schnittke be suspended from the practice
of law for six months, all stayed, which the board adopted.
We adopt the board's findings of fact and conclusions of
law and suspend Schnittke from the practice of law for six
months, all stayed on the condition that he engage in no
4} The parties have stipulated that Schnittke was
appointed to represent three defendants in appeals from their
criminal convictions in May 2005, May 2007, and June 2012. In
the 2005 case, he filed a notice of appeal and docketing
statement, requested and reviewed the transcript of the
client's sentencing hearing, and advised the client that
he saw no basis for an appeal, but he did no additional work.
In the 2007 case, Schnittke sent the client two letters, one
of which advised the client that he had been appointed to the
case and had reviewed the client's file, but he failed to
do anything more. And in the 2012 case, he failed to respond
to the client's letters and performed no work on the
client's behalf. Each of the appeals was dismissed for
want of prosecution because Schnittke failed to file
appellate briefs. Schnittke did not withdraw from any of
these representations, nor did he submit applications for
5} One of the affected clients successfully moved
the court to reopen his appeal and filed an appellate brief,
pro se. After the client filed his brief, Schnittke sent him
a letter regarding the strategy for the appeal and suggested
a case on which the client might rely. Although the letter
indicated that Schnittke would perform research and provide
additional thoughts to assist the client, he never did.
6} The panel adopted the parties' stipulations
that Schnittke's conduct in the 2005 case violated DR
6-101(A)(3) (prohibiting neglect of an entrusted legal
matter); that his conduct in the 2007 case violated
Prof.Cond.R. 1.3 (requiring a lawyer to act with reasonable
diligence in representing a client) and 1.4(a)(3) (requiring
a lawyer to keep the client reasonably informed about the
status of a matter); and that his conduct in the 2012 case
violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), 1.4(a)(4) (requiring a
lawyer to comply as soon as practicable with reasonable
requests for information from the client), and 8.4(d)
(prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that is
prejudicial to the administration of justice).
7} When imposing sanctions for attorney misconduct,
we consider several relevant factors, including the ethical
duties that the lawyer violated, relevant aggravating and
mitigating factors, and ...