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Toledo Bar Association v. Bishop

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 24, 2019

Toledo Bar Association
v.
Bishop.

          Submitted August 6, 2019

          On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2018-054.

          Robison, Curphey & O'Connell, L.L.C., and Robert C. Tucker; Dean A. Horrigan; and Joseph P. Dawson, Bar Counsel, for relator.

          Coughlan Law Firm, L.L.C., and Jonathan Coughlan, for respondent.

          PER CURIAM

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Jerry James Bishop II, of Toledo, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0016287, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1979.

         {¶ 2} In an April 1, 2019 amended complaint, relator, Toledo Bar Association, alleged that Bishop committed five ethical violations by causing his elderly clients, Isadore and Helen Urbanski, to amend an annuity contract to designate Bishop's wife and his sons' Boy Scout troop as contingent beneficiaries and then giving false testimony about that conduct during the ensuing disciplinary investigation.

         {¶ 3} The parties entered into stipulations of fact and mitigating factors and submitted 33 stipulated exhibits. After a hearing before a panel of the Board of Professional Conduct, the board issued a report finding that Bishop committed four of the five alleged violations and recommends that he be suspended from the practice of law for two years with one year stayed on the condition that he commit no further misconduct.

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

         Misconduct

         {¶ 5} Bishop met the Urbanskis in the summer of 2013 and agreed to represent them with regard to their estate-planning needs.

         {¶ 6} In October 2013, the Urbanskis designated their church as the contingent beneficiary of an annuity contract that they had purchased from New York Life Insurance Company in 2006. But on December 21, 2013, they signed a change-of-beneficiary form that designated Bishop's wife and his sons' Boy Scout troop as the contingent beneficiaries of that annuity. The form, which was completed by hand, identified Bishop's wife by her maiden name, Maureen McQuillen, though she had not used that name for nearly 20 years. The next day, the Urbanskis executed their wills, with Bishop and his wife serving as their witnesses.

         {¶ 7} In October 2015, PNC Investments sent the Urbanskis a letter advising them that although they had designated McQuillen and a Boy Scout troop as the contingent beneficiaries of their New York Life annuity contract, they had not designated a primary beneficiary for that annuity. A friend who helped care for the Urbanskis saw the letter when he reviewed their mail. After Isadore Urbanski died in March 2016, the friend attached a copy of the letter to a grievance he filed with relator.

         {¶ 8} In Bishop's initial response to the grievance in June 2017, he did not acknowledge that he was involved in changing the beneficiary designation on the Urbanskis' annuity. He did state, however, that neither his wife nor the Boy Scout troop could be named as a beneficiary ...


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