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Disciplinary Counsel v. Mitchell

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 19, 2019

Disciplinary Counsel
v.
Mitchell.

          Submitted August 6, 2019

          On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2018-048.

          Joseph M. Caligiuri, Disciplinary Counsel, and Michelle R. Bowman, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.

          Christopher Paul Mitchell, pro se.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Christopher Paul Mitchell, of Washington, D.C., Attorney Registration No. 0077327, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 2004. He is also licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and before the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). On May 15, 2018, we suspended Mitchell's license on an interim basis following his felony conviction for leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death. In re Mitchell 152 Ohio St.3d 1472, 2018-Ohio-1897, 97 N.E.3d 507.

         {¶ 2} In a complaint filed with the Board of Professional Conduct on September 27, 2018, relator, disciplinary counsel, alleged that Mitchell committed an illegal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness to practice law by driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. The parties entered into stipulations of fact, misconduct, and aggravating and mitigating factors and agreed that the appropriate sanction for Mitchell's misconduct is a one-year suspension, fully stayed on conditions. Based on those stipulations and Mitchell's testimony and other evidence presented at a hearing before a panel of the board, the board found that Mitchell committed the charged misconduct and recommends that we suspend him from the practice of law for one year, with the suspension fully stayed on conditions.

         {¶ 3} We accept the board's findings of misconduct and recommended sanction.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 4} At approximately 2:20 a.m. on April 29, 2017, Mitchell was involved in a two-car crash in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He failed to yield the right-of-way and collided with another car causing extensive damage to both vehicles. The driver and passenger in the other vehicle were transported to the hospital, where they were treated for minor injuries. Although Mitchell's car was significantly damaged and his airbags had deployed, Mitchell left the scene of the crash. The police apprehended him a short time later, and he cooperated with their investigation. Mitchell admitted that he had consumed six beers that evening, and he expressed concern about the occupants of the other vehicle. A breathalyzer test showed that his blood-alcohol content was 0.12.

         {¶ 5} Following his arrest, Mitchell voluntarily contacted the District of Columbia Lawyers Assistance Program, which recommended that he contact the Family Counseling Center for Recovery ("FCCR"), a treatment facility near his home. FCCR assessed Mitchell and recommended that he participate in an intensive outpatient program consisting of 24 sessions, which he successfully completed. Mitchell voluntarily wore a SCRAM (secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring) bracelet on his ankle from May 8, 2017, to February 8, 2018, during which the device detected no alcohol in his system. He also sought out an Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA") sponsor, who recommended that he attend 90 meetings in 90 days. Mitchell testified that he attended at least one meeting a day for his first year in the program.

         {¶ 6} Mitchell was charged in Virginia with leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death, a fifth-degree felony, and driving while intoxicated, a first-degree misdemeanor. On February 8, 2018, he pleaded guilty to both charges. The trial court sentenced him to three years in prison for the felony and 60 days in jail for the misdemeanor but suspended both terms and placed him on supervised probation for five years. The court also ordered him to successfully complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program, pay a fine and court costs, comply with all terms of his probation, and remain on good behavior.

         {¶ 7} Mitchell admitted that his conduct violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b) (prohibiting a lawyer from committing an illegal act that reflects adversely on his honesty and trustworthiness) and 8.4(h) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer's fitness to practice law). The board agreed, finding that Mitchell's misconduct violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b) and was sufficiently egregious to warrant a separate finding of a Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(h) violation. See Disciplinary Counsel v. Bricker, 137 Ohio St.3d 35, 2013-Ohio-3998, 997 N.E.2d 500, ¶ 21.

         {¶ 8} We accept these ...


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