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Disciplinary Counsel v. Walden

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 24, 2019

Disciplinary Counsel
v.
Walden.

          Submitted August 6, 2019

          On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2018-059.

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

          Derek James Walden, pro se.

          Per Curiam.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Derek James Walden, of Columbus, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0083730, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 2008. On November 3, 2015, we suspended Walden's license for his failure to register for the 2015-2017 biennium, but we reinstated it the next day. In re Attorney Registration Suspension of Walden, 143 Ohio St.3d 1509, 2015-Ohio-4567, 39 N.E.3d 1277; In re Reinstatement of Walden, 144 Ohio St.3d 1432, 2015-Ohio-5363, 42 N.E.3d 766. On April 4, 2017, Walden registered his license as inactive.

         {¶ 2} In a complaint filed with the Board of Professional Conduct on November 26, 2018, relator, disciplinary counsel, alleged that Walden neglected three client matters, failed to reasonably communicate with the affected clients, made false statements to the tribunal in one of those matters, and failed to cooperate in the ensuing disciplinary investigations. Walden answered the complaint and later entered into stipulations of fact, misconduct, and aggravating and mitigating factors. He also testified at a hearing before a panel of the board.

         {¶ 3} The board issued a report that largely adopted the parties' stipulations and recommends that Walden be suspended from the practice of law for two years with 18 months stayed. No objections have been filed.

         {¶ 4} We accept the board's findings of misconduct and impose a two-year suspension, with the final 18 months conditionally stayed.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 5} Walden had an "of counsel" relationship with Dorman Law, L.L.C., in 2013 and 2014. During Walden's tenure at the firm, he represented Gail Harper-Perry and Perry Lewis, who had retained the firm to pursue personal-injury claims, and Cynthia Cooper, who had retained the firm to pursue a dental-malpractice claim. When Walden left the firm in October 2014, all three clients opted to follow him to his new firm, Walden Law, L.L.C.

         {¶ 6} Walden filed complaints on behalf of all three clients, but he subsequently failed to respond to their calls and e-mails and never told Lewis that he had commenced his litigation.

         {¶ 7} Because Walden failed to respond to discovery requests, defense counsel in two of the three cases filed motions to compel. In Harper-Perry's case, Walden failed to respond to the defendant's motion, failed to comply with the court's order compelling discovery, and failed to respond to the defendant's subsequent motion to dismiss the complaint. Citing Walden's failure to comply with court orders and to prosecute Harper-Perry's case, the court dismissed the complaint without prejudice.

         {¶ 8} Walden appeared at a status conference in Lewis's case and explained that he had just recently located his client and that they would work together to resolve the outstanding discovery issues. The court therefore denied the defendant's motion to compel and extended discovery deadlines. After a second motion to compel was filed, Walden appeared at another status conference and provided incomplete discovery responses. He falsely told the court that Lewis had not been forthcoming with information-when in reality, he had failed to maintain contact with his client-and he said that he would work with Lewis to supplement the responses. Although the court granted the ...


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