FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 2013GI00040
BRADLEY HULL, IV, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
ZAGRANS, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
A. SCHAFER, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Appellant Dariush Saghafi appeals the judgment of the Lorain
County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division. For the
reasons that follow, this Court affirms in part, reverses in
part, and remands.
This matter arises from a guardianship with a long and
arduous history. This Court summarized some of the previous
history of this case in an earlier appeal as follows:
Mehdi Saghafi and Fourough Bakhtiar are both in their
eighties and had been married for over 55 years when Mehdi
filed an application for appointment as guardian of his
wife's person based on allegations of her incompetence.
On the same day, Dariush Saghafi, one of the couple's
sons, filed an application for appointment as guardian of
Fourough's estate. Another son, Kourosh Saghafi, D.O.,
executed the statement of expert evaluation appended to both
applications. A month later, Fourough filed a complaint for
divorce from Mehdi in the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations
Court. A couple days after that, the couple's only
daughter, Jaleh Presutto, filed an application for
appointment as guardian of her mother's person and
estate. She appended a statement of expert evaluation
conducted by a clinical neuropsychologist. Both experts who
evaluated Fourough concluded that she was suffering from
dementia. The Lorain County Probate Court subsequently found
Fourough incompetent to care for herself and her property and
determined that a guardianship was necessary. The probate
court appointed Jaleh as interim guardian of her mother's
person and Stephen Sartschev as interim guardian of
Fourough's estate. Two days later, the probate court
issued a judgment entry noting that it had conducted a
pretrial during which all parties agreed that a guardianship
was necessary for Fourough and that the court had appointed
interim guardians. The trial court further prohibited the
parties from proceeding with a final divorce hearing at that
This guardianship matter proceeded in a highly contentious
manner among Fourough's various family members. In
addition, other lawsuits pending in Cuyahoga County,
including the divorce proceedings between Mehdi and Fourough;
a civil action by Kourosh seeking to have Fourough's
earlier executed powers of attorney declared invalid; a civil
action by Mehdi against Jaleh; and a civil action by third
parties against Mehdi and Fourough's guardians
surrounding their refusal to transfer their interest in
certain real estate pursuant to a real estate contract, all
intertwined and served to complicate these matters to a
Subsequently, Kourosh filed an application for appointment as
guardian of his mother's person and estate. In addition,
Mehdi and his sons filed multiple motions to have Fourough
evaluated by an independent forensic psychiatrist and
independent physician notwithstanding the parties'
stipulation of incompetency and agreement that Fourough
needed a guardian and that the probate court had appointed
interim guardians for the ward and her estate. Mehdi and his
sons further repeatedly sought to remove and/or limit the
authority of Jaleh as her mother's guardian. The probate
court denied those requests. It continued to prohibit the
parties from proceeding with a final divorce hearing.
More than a year after the first application for appointment
of a guardian was filed, the parties and attorneys involved
in this matter, as well as some of the other legal matters
involving this family, exhibited ongoing contentious and
accusatory behaviors. While Fourough had two interim
guardians, she also had her own attorney (Stephen Wolf) who
moved to replace the guardian for the estate (Mr. Sartschev)
who allegedly was no longer permitted to hold a fiduciary
position. Mr. Wolf applied to the probate court to be
permitted to "step in and take over as guardian of the
estate[.]" Other members of Fourough's family
challenged Mr. Wolf's application, asserting that his
involvement with this matter, as well as his representation
of Jaleh's husband in a criminal matter, prevented him
from being a disinterested guardian. Mr. Sartschev informed
the probate court that he was required to resign as guardian
of the estate, and the trial court accepted his resignation.
The probate court further removed Jaleh as guardian of the
person and appointed attorney Zachary Simonoff as interim
guardian of both the person and estate of Fourough. Mr.
Simonoff filed a formal application for appointment as
guardian. The probate court issued letters of guardianship of
the estate to Mr. Simonoff and denied all other pending
applications for guardian of the estate.
The court further issued letters of guardianship to Mr.
Simonoff as guardian of Fourough's person, pending final
hearing on the matter. Again, the probate court ordered that
neither the parties nor the guardian may proceed with a final
divorce hearing relative to Mehdi and Fourough.
A year-and-a-half after the initiation of this guardianship
case, the probate court held a final hearing and issued a
final judgment disposing of the pending applications. It
denied the applications for guardianship filed by Mehdi
Saghafi, Dariush Saghafi, and Kourosh Saghafi. It issued
letters of guardianship of the person of Fourough to Jaleh
Presutto and letter of guardianship of the estate of Fourough
to Zachary Simonoff. [In] addition, the probate court ordered
Fourough's attorney, Stephen Wolf, to "file [a]
brief with Court on issue of divorce of the Ward." The
court granted a 21-day period for responses to Attorney Wolfs
Fourough, through Attorney Wolf, moved for an order allowing
Mehdi and Fourough to proceed with a final divorce hearing.
The guardian of the estate filed a brief in support. Mehdi
filed briefs in opposition to both. Upon consideration of the
briefs, the probate court ordered that "the Guardian is
to proceed in the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations case
through to final divorce."
In re Guardianship of Fourough Bakhtiar, 9th Dist.
Lorain No. 15CA010721, 2016-Ohio-8199, ¶ 2-7
("Bakhtiar I "). Mehdi and
Fourough's divorce was finalized on October 3, 2014.
This Court summarized subsequent proceedings as follows in a
In late 2015, [Dariush] Saghafi filed [a second] application
for appointment as guardian and motions to remove Jaleh
Presutto as guardian of person and Zachary Simonoff as
guardian of estate. On January 7, 2016, Mr. Saghafi filed
praecipes for subpoenas to be issued to Fifth Third Bank,
Huntington Bank, the Cleveland Clinic, Nordstrom, Century
Federal Credit Union, Allianz, and Visa. By its entry of
January 20, 2016, the trial court stayed the subpoenas and
set a hearing for February 9, 2016, "to establish if
there is a basis for the motions by Darius Saghafi to proceed
and the relevance of subpoenaed information." Mr.
Saghafi subsequently filed a motion for relief from judgment,
asking the trial court to lift the stay on the subpoenas and
to cancel the hearing. After the hearing went forward as
scheduled, the trial court denied Mr. Saghafi's
application to be appointed as guardian and his two motions
to remove, quashed the aforementioned subpoenas, and denied
the motion for relief from judgment as moot.
In re Guardianship of Bakhtiar, 9th Dist. Lorain No.
16CA010932, 2017-Ohio-5835, ¶ 3 ("Bakhtiar
II "). On appeal, this court affirmed.
Id. at ¶ 17.
The procedural history relevant to the present appeal is as
follows. On or about May 11, 2016, the Lorain County Grand
Jury indicted Jaleh Presutto on several non-violent felony
charges unrelated to the guardianship. Consequently, Bakhtiar
was moved from her daughter's house to a nursing home. On
May 16, 2016, the probate court filed a judgment entry
temporarily removing Jaleh Presutto as guardian of the person
and, ex parte and without prior notice, re-appointed Simonoff
as guardian of the person. The court simultaneously issued
letters of guardianship to Simonoff as guardian of the person
for the ward, Fourough Bakhtiar. That same day, Saghafi filed
a pro se motion to remove Simonoff as guardian of the estate
and a third application for appointment of guardian of
alleged incompetent person and estate.
On May 18, 2016, Saghafi filed a pro se motion for temporary
restraining order against Simonoff and Presutto,
Presutto's husband, and Presutto's attorney in the
Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, General Division. The
matter was dismissed the following day for lack of
jurisdiction. The Lorain County Court of Common Pleas,
General Division denied Saghafi's subsequent Civ.R. 60(B)
On May 24, 2016, Saghafi filed a motion for temporary
restraining order in the probate court. Successively,
Simonoff filed a motion to strike Saghafi's motion to
remove guardian and motion for temporary restraining order
and for sanctions pursuant to R.C. 2323.51 or in the
alternative to hold Saghafi in contempt.
On June 3, 2016, Jaleh Presutto filed a motion to complete
renovations or, in the alternative, to restore the home to
its prior condition and an amended motion on June 22, 2016.
In response, Saghafi filed a pro se brief in opposition to
Presutto's amended motion.
Thereafter, on June 15, 2016, Saghafi filed a motion to
strike Simonoff s motions or in the alternative, to dismiss
the motions, a motion for sanctions against Simonoff, a
motion for frivolous conduct against Simonoff, a motion to
strike filings since May 16, 2016, and a request that the
probate court proceed on his motions and application.
Simonoff filed a response to Saghafi's motions on June
On June 23, 2016, Presutto filed an amended motion to
complete renovations or, in the alternative, to restore the
home to its prior condition. On July 5, 2016, Saghafi filed a
brief in opposition to Presutto's amended motion.
Presutto thereafter filed a motion to strike Saghafi's
brief in opposition. Saghafi, through counsel, filed a brief
in opposition to Presutto's motion to strike his brief in
opposition to Presutto's amended motion to complete
renovations or, in the alternative, to restore home to its
prior condition and for sanctions.
Also on July 5, 2016, Saghafi filed a pro se request for
production of documents propounded upon Simonoff requesting
an extensive list of documents relating to the guardianship.
Simonoff did not respond to Saghafi's request.
On August 5, 2016, the probate court held an oral hearing on
all of the pending motions, with the exception of the motions
related to the renovations of the Presutto home and
Saghafi's application for appointment of guardian.
On September 20, 2016, Saghafi filed a renewed request to
obtain copies, inspect records and documents and a new
request to obtain copies, inspect records and personal
belongings. Saghafi also filed a subpoena duces tecum
commanding a wireless company to produce all of the records
relating to all forms of communication related to Simonoff.
Thereafter, Simonoff filed a motion to stay discovery pending
ruling on the motions subject to the August 5, 2016 hearing.
In an order filed September 23, 2016, the probate court found
that Saghafi's motion to remove Simonoff as guardian of
the estate, requesting ex parte and emergency relief, motion
for temporary restraining order, and brief in opposition to
amended motion to complete renovations or, in the
alternative, to restore the home to its prior condition, all
filed pro se, sought relief on behalf of Bakhtiar. The
probate court further found that Saghafi is not a licensed
attorney in the state of Ohio and that Attorney Wolf had at
all times therein represented Bakhtiar and Attorneys Barrett
and Reddy represented Bakhtiar in her divorce proceedings.
Accordingly, the probate court determined that Saghafi had
violated R.C. 4705.01 and struck his motions to remove
Simonoff as guardian of the estate, requesting ex parte and
emergency relief and motion for temporary restraining order,
and brief in opposition to amended motion to complete
renovations or, in the alternative, to restore the home to
its prior condition. The probate court then denied
Saghafi's motion to strike Simonoff s motion to strike
Saghafi's motion to remove guardian and motion for
temporary restraining order. The probate court additionally
found that Saghafi's filings constituted frivolous
conduct and awarded attorney fees to Bakhtiar and Presutto as
well as the guardianship of Bakhtiar. The probate court did
not address Saghafi's third application to appoint
guardian in the September 23, 2016 order.
Saghafi timely appealed the September 23, 2016 order, raising
five assignments of error for our review.
Then, on September 26, 2016, Simonoff filed a guardian's
motion for clarification of pending matters after the
September 23, 2016 decision. The next day, Simonoff filed a
motion for protective order and to quash subpoena. On
September 27, 2016, the probate court granted the motion for
protective order and the motion to quash subpoena.
Saghafi timely appealed the September 27, 2016, order raising
two assignments of error for our review. This Court sua
sponte combined Saghafi's appeals. For the ease of
analysis we elect to consider the assignments of error out of
order. Additionally, as Saghafi's second and third
assignments of error relating to the September 23, 2016 order
raise similar issues, we elect to consider them together.
of Error II
honorable trial court committed reversible error when it
ruled that Dariush Saghafi's conduct was frivolous under