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Ohio State Bar Association v. Mason

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 28, 2017

Ohio State Bar Association
v.
Mason.

          Submitted October 18, 2017

         On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2016-037.

          J. Desiree Blankenship and Eugene P. Whetzel; and Kelly E. Heile, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney; and Scanlon Group Co., L.P.A., and Maura S. Scanlon, for relator.

          Alkire & Nieding, L.L.C., Richard C. Alkire and Dean Nieding, for respondent.

          Kennedy, J.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Lance Timothy Mason, of Cleveland, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0067346, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio on November 19, 1996. From 2008 to 2015, Mason served as a judge on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

         {¶ 2} In a complaint filed on August 24, 2016, relator, Ohio State Bar Association, alleged that Mason pled guilty to one count of attempted felonious assault, a third-degree felony, and one count of domestic violence, a first-degree misdemeanor. A hearing was held on March 1, 2017, before a panel of the Board of Professional Conduct. Based on the parties' stipulations and evidence presented at the hearing, the panel found by clear and convincing evidence that Mason committed the charged violations. After weighing the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors, the panel recommended that Mason be disbarred for his misconduct. The board adopted the panel's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommended sanction.

         {¶ 3} We agree with the board that Mason committed the violations alleged in the complaint. However, we disagree with the board that disbarment is the appropriate sanction for Mason. Instead, we impose an indefinite suspension with no credit for time served on the interim felony suspension and with added conditions for reinstatement.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 4} When the misconduct in this case occurred, Mason was a sitting judge on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, General Division. During all relevant times, he was subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         {¶ 5} In March 2014, Mason and his wife, Aisha Fraser Mason ("Fraser"), separated, with Mason continuing to live in what was the marital home and Fraser residing in an apartment. During their separation, Mason and Fraser shared equally in the custody and parenting of their two minor children.

         {¶ 6} On August 2, 2014, Mason, Fraser, and the children attended a funeral service for Mason's aunt. Mason and Fraser agreed that after the service, Mason would drop Fraser off at her apartment and Mason would spend the afternoon with the children.

         {¶ 7} During the ride to Fraser's apartment, the couple engaged in a conversation about their relationship. As the discussion progressed, Mason became upset and began assaulting Fraser, all the while continuing to drive. Mason struck Fraser repeatedly in the head, hit Fraser's head against the armrest, the dashboard, and the window of the passenger door, and bit Fraser on her face. Fraser attempted to escape the moving car, but Mason grabbed her hair. When the car stopped at a red light, Fraser was able to open the door, but fell to the ground as she tried to flee. With the two children still in the car, Mason placed the vehicle in park, got out, and began to strike Fraser as she lay on the ground.

         {¶ 8} Mason then returned to his vehicle and drove away, leaving Fraser behind. Mason and Fraser's two children (ages six and four at the time) were seated in the back seat and witnessed the events. The older child, who has special needs and possesses limited verbal abilities, ...


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