Submitted August 29, 2017
Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the
Supreme Court, No. 2016-029.
J. Brandt and John M. Ruffolo, for relator.
Derrick A. Strahorn, pro se.
1} Respondent, Derrick Anthony Strahorn, of Dayton,
Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0034483, was admitted to the
practice of law in Ohio in 1986.
2} In a July 2016 complaint, relator, Dayton Bar
Association, alleged that Strahorn violated multiple Rules of
Professional Conduct by accepting a nonrefundable retainer
without advising his client in writing that he might be
entitled to a refund if Strahorn failed to complete the
representation, by failing to adequately notify the client
that he did not carry malpractice insurance, and by failing
to act with reasonable diligence in representing the client.
3} A panel of the Board of Professional Conduct held
a hearing and adopted the parties' stipulations of fact
and misconduct. And after considering Strahorn's
testimony, the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors,
and the sanctions imposed for comparable misconduct, the
panel recommended that Strahorn be suspended from the
practice of law for six months, all stayed on conditions. The
board adopted the panel's report, and no objections have
4} We adopt the board's findings of fact and
misconduct and suspend Strahorn from the practice of law for
six months, stayed in its entirety on the conditions
recommended by the board.
5} In July 2013, Harry Drake retained Strahorn to
represent him in a negligence action. He paid a $3, 000
retainer and signed a written fee agreement that described
that fee as "nonrefundable." But Strahorn did not
simultaneously advise Drake in writing that he might be
entitled to a refund of all or part of the retainer if
Strahorn failed to complete the representation. Strahorn
admits that this failure violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.5(d)(3)
(prohibiting a lawyer from charging a fee denominated as
"earned upon receipt, " "nonrefundable, "
or a similar term without simultaneously advising the client
in writing that the client may be entitled to a refund of all
or part of the fee if the lawyer does not complete the
representation). He also admits that while his fee agreement
with Drake expressly stated, "ATTORNEY DOES NOT
PRESENTLY CARRY MALPRACTICE INSURANCE" (capitalization
sic), that notice did not comply with Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(c),
which requires an attorney to provide that information on a
separate form that is signed by the client.
6} Drake sought to recover damages from a contractor
who was allegedly negligent in making repairs to Drake's
home. Drake's insurance company had paid Drake
approximately $104, 000 and filed a subrogation lawsuit
against the contractor. But Drake retained Strahorn to pursue
claims for additional damages. In September 2013, Strahorn
filed a third-party complaint in the subrogation lawsuit.
Even though Drake was not a party to the lawsuit and Strahorn
had not filed a motion to intervene, the clerk of courts
accepted the filing as an intervening complaint.
7} Strahorn received discovery requests from the
opposing party in October 2013, but he failed to timely
forward those requests to Drake and did not respond to the
opposing party's motion to compel discovery. On April 21,
2014, almost two weeks after the court granted the motion to
compel, Strahorn finally served Drake's discovery
responses on opposing counsel.
8} Strahorn moved the court for permission to
withdraw as Drake's counsel in June 2014, but he later
withdrew that request. He renewed that request in January
2015-after Drake filed a grievance ...