Submitted May 21, 2019
Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the
Supreme Court, No. 2017-067.
Thompson Hine, L.L.P., and Karen E. Rubin; and Heather M.
Zirke and Kari L. Burns, Bar Counsel, for relator.
Rebecca Jo Austin, pro se.
1} Respondent, Rebecca Jo Austin, of Lakewood, Ohio,
Attorney Registration No. 0088694, was admitted to the
practice of law in Ohio in 2012.
2} On November 30, 2017, relator, Cleveland
Metropolitan Bar Association, charged Austin with neglecting
two client matters, failing to cooperate in a disciplinary
investigation, and other professional misconduct. Austin
failed to answer the complaint, and on February 23, 2018, we
imposed an interim default suspension pursuant to Gov.Bar R.
V(14)(B)(1). 152 Ohio St.3d 1253, 2018-Ohio-656, 96 N.E.3d
290. On May 4, 2018, we found her in contempt because she had
not timely complied with our default-suspension order. 152
Ohio St.3d 1459, 2018-Ohio-1710, 97 N.E.3d 497. On August 22,
2018, Austin moved for leave to answer relator's
complaint, and on October 1, 2018, we granted her motion and
remanded the case to the Board of Professional Conduct,
although we kept her interim default suspension in place. 153
Ohio St.3d 1489, 2018-Ohio-3955, 108 N.E.3d 86.
3} On remand, relator amended its complaint to
include additional alleged misconduct, including that Austin
continued to practice law during her interim default
suspension. Austin stipulated to most of the factual
allegations in the amended complaint but not to any
ethical-rule violations. After a hearing before a panel of
the board, the board issued a report finding that Austin had
engaged in most of the charged misconduct and recommending
that we indefinitely suspend her from the practice of law,
grant her credit for the time she has served under her
interim default suspension, order her to pay restitution to a
former client, and impose conditions on her reinstatement.
Neither party filed objections to the board's report.
4} Upon our review of the record, we adopt the
board's findings of misconduct and recommended sanction.
However, we conclude that Austin shall not receive any credit
for the nearly three-month period that she continued to
practice law during her interim suspension. Therefore, Austin
shall receive credit beginning May 16, 2018.
I the Long matter
5} On February 24, 2017, Joseph Long paid Austin a
retainer to assist him with a postdecree filing in his
divorce case. Long thereafter attempted to contact Austin by
phone, e-mail, and text, but she failed to respond to his
messages. Long also sent Austin a narrative about his legal
matter, but she failed to file anything on his behalf. About
two months after retaining Austin, Long sent her an e-mail
requesting a refund of his retainer. Austin again failed to
6} On May 10, 2017, Austin sent Long an e-mail
apologizing for "recent communications issues,"
which she claimed were caused by technological problems with
her e-mail and phone and exacerbated by personal issues.
Later the same day, Long sent Austin an e-mail terminating
her services and again requesting a refund of his retainer.
Austin, however, failed to return the unearned portion of
Long's retainer until more than ten months later.
7} Based on this conduct, the board found that
Austin violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3 (requiring a lawyer to act
with reasonable diligence in representing a client),
1.4(a)(3) (requiring a lawyer to keep the client reasonably
informed about the status of a matter), and 1.4(a)(4)
(requiring a lawyer to comply as soon as practicable with