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Lorain County Bar Association v. Lewis

Supreme Court of Ohio

May 30, 2018

Lorain County Bar Association
v.
Lewis.

          Submitted November 21, 2017

          On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2016-033.

          Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista Co. and Daniel A. Cook; Trigilio & Stephenson, P.L.L., and Richard Mellott Jr., Bar Counsel, for relator.

          Gallagher Sharp, L.L.P., Timothy T. Brick, and Kevin R. Marchaza, for respondent.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Kenneth James Lewis, of Cleveland, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0073002, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 2000. In 2009, we suspended him for one year after finding that he had forged a judge's signature on a previously time-stamped judgment entry. Medina Cty. Bar Assn. v. Lewis, 121 Ohio St.3d 596, 2009-Ohio-1765, 906 N.E.2d 1102.

         {¶ 2} In April 2017, relator, Lorain County Bar Association, charged Lewis with violating multiple professional-conduct rules for, among other things, giving a false written witness statement about an alcohol-related traffic incident. Lewis stipulated to some, but not all, of the charged misconduct, and the matter proceeded to a hearing before a three-member panel of the Board of Professional Conduct. The panel found that Lewis engaged in the stipulated misconduct, dismissed all other counts against him, and recommended that we suspend him for two years, with the final six months stayed on conditions. The board issued a report adopting the panel's findings and recommended sanction, and neither party has objected to the board's report.

         {¶ 3} Based on our review of the record, we adopt the board's findings of misconduct and recommended sanction.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 4} At around 1:00 a.m. on June 8, 2016, Lewis and another attorney, Heather Wilsey, left a bar in Elyria, Ohio, and entered Lewis's car.[1] According to Lewis, they were both intoxicated and Wilsey was driving. Wilsey lost control of the car, and it struck a utility pole and ended up in a tree lawn on the other side of the street, rendering the vehicle inoperable. Shortly after the accident, an Elyria police officer observed Lewis and Wilsey walking away from the scene and stopped them for questioning.

         {¶ 5} At Lewis's disciplinary hearing, two Elyria police officers testified that during their questioning of Lewis and Wilsey at the scene, Lewis told them that an unknown African American man had been driving the car at the time of the accident and that Lewis and Wilsey were only passengers in the vehicle. Lewis testified, however, that it was Wilsey-not him-who had told the officers that another man had been driving the car and that he had merely confirmed her story by telling an officer "that it happened just like she said it did." Regardless, Lewis admitted that the following day, he submitted a false written witness statement to the police. Specifically, Lewis affirmatively declared in his written statement that on the night of the accident, he had given his car keys to an unknown man who agreed to drive Lewis and Wilsey to her home, that the unknown man crashed Lewis's car, that Lewis sat in the back seat and Wilsey sat in the passenger seat, and that the man left the scene after the accident. According to Lewis, he made the false statements to protect Wilsey, with whom he had recently begun a romantic relationship.

         {¶ 6} The police, however, had obtained a video recording from the bar showing that Lewis and Wilsey had left the establishment by themselves just prior to the accident, with Wilsey driving. Therefore, immediately after Lewis gave the false written statement at the Elyria police station, the police arrested him for obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor. Relator subsequently opened a disciplinary investigation regarding the pending charge.

         {¶ 7} On September 12, 2016-during the pendency of the Elyria case and this disciplinary matter-Lewis and Wilsey were involved in another alcohol-related traffic incident, and an officer with the Brunswick Hills police department arrested Lewis for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol ("OVI"). Four days later, on September 16, Lewis appeared in Medina Municipal Court and entered a no-contest plea to the OVI charge. The court found him guilty, suspended his driver's license, and imposed a fine. Lewis did not voluntarily disclose his OVI conviction to relator, although relator later learned of the conviction from another source.

         {¶ 8} On September 20, 2016-just four days after Lewis's OVI conviction in the Medina court-he appeared in Elyria Municipal Court and entered a no-contest plea to the charge of obstructing official business. The court found him guilty and later sentenced him to 90 days in jail with 80 days suspended and imposed a one-year term of ...


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