Submitted September 13, 2017
Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the
Supreme Court, No. 2016-019.
J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, and Michelle R. Bowman,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.
1} Respondent, Timothy Eric Bellew, whose last known
address was in Warren, Ohio, Attorney Registration No.
0067573, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1997.
2} Bellew's license has been suspended
continuously since January 2015. We first suspended him from
the practice of law on an interim basis on January 21, 2015,
based on his failure to respond to a disciplinary complaint
filed by the Trumbull County Bar Association. Trumbull
Cty. Bar Assn. v. Bellew, 143 Ohio St.3d 1220,
2015-Ohio-147, 35 N.E.3d 526; Gov.Bar R. V(14)(B)(1). Four
more interim suspensions followed in August 2015, February
2016, September 2016, and January 2017, for his failure to
respond to additional disciplinary complaints-including the
three-count complaint filed in this case by relator,
disciplinary counsel. Disciplinary Counsel v.
Bellew, 143 Ohio St.3d 1292, 2015-Ohio-2374, 40 N.E.3d
1150; Trumbull Cty. Bar Assn. v. Bellew, 145 Ohio
St.3d 1214, 2016-Ohio-502, 47 N.E.3d 863; Disciplinary
Counsel v. Bellew, 147 Ohio St.3d 1255, 2016-Ohio-5724,
66 N.E.3d 748');">66 N.E.3d 748 [this case]; and Trumbull Cty. Bar Assn. v.
Bellew, 149 Ohio St.3d 1258, 2017-Ohio-255, 75 N.E.3d
1269. We have converted three of those interim default
suspensions into indefinite suspensions. Trumbull Cty.
Bar Assn. v. Bellew, 143 Ohio St.3d 1298,
2015-Ohio-3697, 40 N.E.3d 1155; Disciplinary Counsel v.
Bellew, 147 Ohio St.3d 1202, 2016-Ohio-1534, 59 N.E.3d
1284; Trumbull Cty. Bar Assn. v. Bellew, 147 Ohio
St.3d 1258, 2016-Ohio-6966, 66 N.E.3d 750.
3} On April 12, 2017, we granted relator's
motion to remand this proceeding to the Board of Professional
Conduct to seek Bellew's permanent disbarment.
Thereafter, relator submitted his motion for default
disbarment supported by 33 sworn or certified exhibits,
including the affidavits of two clients, assistant
disciplinary counsel, and relator's investigator.
See Gov.Bar R. V(14)(F).
4} The motion for default was referred to a master
appointed by the board for disposition pursuant to Gov.Bar R.
V(14)(F)(2)(a). The master recommended that Bellew be
permanently disbarred based on findings that Bellew continued
to engage in the practice of law while his license was
suspended, failed to refund unearned retainers, and failed to
cooperate in the ensuing disciplinary investigation. The
board adopted the master's findings of fact and
conclusions of law and agreed that Bellew should be
permanently disbarred. For the reasons that follow, we adopt
the board's report and permanently disbar Bellew from the
practice of law in Ohio.
I: Jessica Mitchell
5} On January 14, 2015, Jessica Mitchell paid Bellew
a $200 retainer and signed a fee agreement stating that she
would pay Bellew $75 per hour plus court costs to represent
her in her divorce. A week later, she gave him an additional
$250 for her court costs. Bellew filed the complaint for
divorce on January 30, 2015-nine days after we first
suspended him from the practice of law. Later that day,
Bellew texted Mitchell to tell her he had filed her
complaint. That was the last communication she received from
6} Soon thereafter, the domestic-relations court
informed Mitchell that Bellew had been suspended from the
practice of law and that there were errors in the documents
that he had filed on her behalf. She later learned that the
$300 check Bellew used to pay her filing fee had been
returned for insufficient funds. Indeed, the account the
check was written on had been closed for more than five
years. Mitchell went to the courthouse to correct the
defective documents and paid the filing fee herself. Bellew
did not refund any of her money.
7} On these facts, the board found that Bellew
violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(a)(3) (requiring a lawyer to keep
the client reasonably informed about the status of a matter),
1.15(d) (requiring a lawyer to promptly deliver funds or
other property that the client is entitled to receive),
3.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from knowingly disobeying an
obligation under the rules of a tribunal), 5.5(a)
(prohibiting a lawyer from practicing law in a jurisdiction
in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in
that jurisdiction), 8.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from
engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or
misrepresentation), and 8.4(d) (prohibiting a lawyer from
engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration
of justice). Consistent with our holding in Disciplinary
Counsel v. Bricker, 137 Ohio St.3d 35, 2013-Ohio-3998,
997 N.E.2d 500, ¶ 21, the board also found that
Bellew's conduct was sufficiently egregious to constitute
a separate violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(h) (prohibiting a
lawyer from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on
the lawyer's fitness to practice law).