Submitted January 24, 2018
Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the
Supreme Court, No. 2017-027.
J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, and Catherine M. Russo,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.
Coughlan Law Firm L.L.C. and Jonathan E. Coughlan, for
1} Respondent, Howard Evan Skolnick, of Cleveland,
Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0061905, was admitted to the
practice of law in Ohio in 1993.
2} In a formal complaint filed with the Board of
Professional Conduct on May 22, 2017, relator, disciplinary
counsel, charged Skolnick with a single 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) for verbally harassing his paralegal for
more than two years. Based on the parties' stipulations
and Skolnick's hearing testimony, the board found that
Skolnick had engaged in the charged misconduct and
recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for
six months, with the entire suspension stayed on the
condition that he engage in no further misconduct. No
objections have been filed.
3} Having review the record, we adopt the
board's findings of fact and misconduct. Given the
longstanding and pervasive nature of Skolnick's degrading
verbal attacks against his paralegal, however, we find that a
one-year suspension, with six months stayed on the condition
that he engage in no further misconduct, is the appropriate
sanction for that misconduct.
4} Almost immediately after L.D. began working as a
paralegal at Skolnick's law firm in August 2011, Skolnick
began criticizing and verbally harassing her. He hurled
insults and called her stupid, dumb, fat, "whorey,"
and bitch. Skolnick also called L.D.'s husband a
"douche bag" and made fun of her mother, though he
had never met her. Uncomfortable with Skolnik's behavior,
L.D. soon began looking for a new job. As she could not
afford to leave the firm until she had secured new
employment, she responded to over 100 employment
advertisements, but her job search was unsuccessful.
5} Skolnick's verbal insults and harassment
continued throughout L.D.'s nearly two-and-a-half-year
tenure with the firm. At some point, L.D. began recording
those interactions. These recordings reveal that on one
occasion, Skolnick told L.D. that he would put her next to
his office so that he could "watch every move that [her]
despicable ass makes." During that conversation, he also
told her that he had been losing weight because seeing her
made him nauseous. Another time, L.D. left a meeting upset
and humiliated because Skolnick had used foul language in
front of attorneys to criticize her level of education. And
in the spring of 2012, Skolnick sexually harassed L.D. While
Skolnick drove L.D. and another female employee to lunch, he
remarked that the two women should give him "road
head" so that he could rate their performances on a
scale from one to ten. Skolnick also falsely told an African
American client that L.D. did not like black people, a remark
that upset L.D. and forced her to defend herself in front of
6} As a result of Skolnick's harassment, L.D.
suffered from anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression, and
poor body image. Those symptoms persisted even after she left
the firm to take a new job in January 2014. A clinical
psychologist who evaluated L.D. the following October
reported that her symptoms meet some of the criteria for a
diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder.
7} Skolnick stipulated and the board found that his
conduct adversely reflected upon his fitness to practice law
in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(h). We accept these findings
of fact and agree that Skolnick's pervasive pattern of
verbally harassing and abusing his paralegal falls within
this catchall provision. See ...