Bookmark this page on your mobile

QR Code image

What is this?

Daily Court Reporter - News Former judge failed to supervise embezzling private practice employee

 

Former judge failed to supervise embezzling private practice employee

Dan Trevas, Supreme Court of Ohio

A former Belmont County judge and bankruptcy trustee was publicly reprimanded by the Ohio Supreme Court recently for failing to adequately supervise an employee who stole more than $125,000 from the lawyer and nearly $60,000 from the lawyer’s client trust account over a nine-year span.

The Supreme Court unanimously reprimanded D. William Davis of Bridgeport, who discovered during a 2014 audit that his office manager had skimmed cash deposits by clients meant for deposit into one of the attorney’s bank accounts. In a per curiam opinion, the Court wrote that it was Davis’ duty to supervise the work of nonlawyer employees and that “supervision is critical in order that the interests of clients are effectively safeguarded.”

The Court noted that none of Davis’ clients lost money as the result of the misconduct and that Davis and his new law partner have implemented procedures to prevent theft from occurring in the future.

Theft Discovered During Merger Process

Davis served as a Belmont County Court judge in the Eastern Division from 1979-2010, which was a part-time position. He also maintained a law practice and served as a bankruptcy trustee for 30 years.

In 1980, the firm where Davis practiced law hired Jayne Sliva as a legal secretary. In 2001, Davis established a solo practice and retained Sliva as his secretary, bookkeeper, and office manager. In 2003, Sliva began stealing from Davis. As a bankruptcy lawyer, Davis received significant amounts of cash payments from clients. Sliva recorded those payments on a client ledger, but instead of depositing the money into Davis’ client trust account or his law practice operating account, she kept some of the cash.

In 2012, Sliva left the firm, and in 2014, Davis decided to merge his practice with another lawyer. The missing money was discovered when he had his solo practice books audited. In January 2015, he filed a police report, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office conducted a forensic audit of his accounts. The attorney general determined that between 2003 and 2012, Sliva embezzled $185,000, with nearly $126,000 coming from payments that should have gone to Davis.

In 2017, Sliva pleaded guilty to aggravated theft by deception and tampering with records. She was sentenced to three years of incarceration and ordered to make restitution to Davis. Davis has thus far received $100,000 from Sliva and $10,000 from a bonding company on Sliva’s behalf.

Disciplinary Charges Filed for Lack of Oversight

Based on Sliva’s conviction, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel charged Davis with violating the rules of professional conduct for failing to perform the required level of oversight of his client trust account and inadequately supervising his staff.

During disciplinary proceedings, Davis admitted that when Sliva worked for him, he reviewed the bank statements for his trust account, but did not conduct the required monthly reconciliation of the account by comparing the client ledgers with the trust account registers and bank statements. The Board of Professional Conduct determined he violated the rules by failing to perform the required monthly reconciliations and failing to make reasonable efforts to ensure his nonlawyer employee’s conduct was comparable to the professional obligations of a lawyer.

The board observed that Davis had no prior disciplinary record, lacked a selfish or dishonest motive, and made a good-faith effort to rectify the consequences of Sliva’s theft by depositing nearly $36,000 of his own money into his client trust account.

The parties and the board recommended a public reprimand, and the Court adopted the sanction.

The opinion can be found online at: http://www.courtnewsohio.gov/cases/2019/SCO/0410/181761.asp#.XK8rsaR7mUk

2018-1761. Disciplinary Counsel v. Davis, Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-1314.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

About the Supreme Court of Ohio

The Supreme Court is established by Article IV, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution. Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution sets the size of the Court and outlines its jurisdiction. Article IV, Section 5 of the Constitution grants rule making and other authority to the Court.

The Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Ohio. Most of its cases are appeals from the 12 district courts of appeals. The Court may grant leave to appeal felony cases from the courts of appeals and may direct a court of appeals to certify its record in any civil or misdemeanor case that the Court finds to be "of public or great general interest."

The Supreme Court also has appellate jurisdiction in cases involving questions arising under the Ohio or United States Constitutions, cases originating in the courts of appeals, and cases in which there have been conflicting opinions on the same question from two or more courts of appeals. The Supreme Court hears all cases in which the death penalty has been imposed. These cases currently include both appeals from courts of appeals affirming imposition of the death penalty by a trial court and, for capital crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 1995, appeals taken directly from the trial courts. Finally, the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction extends to review of the actions of certain administrative agencies, including the Public Utilities Commission.

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to issue extraordinary writs. These include writs of habeas corpus (inquiring into the cause of an allegedly unlawful imprisonment or deprivation of custody), writs of mandamus (ordering a public official to perform a required act), writs of procedendo (compelling a lower court to proceed to judgment in a case), writs of prohibition (ordering a lower court to stop abusing or usurping judicial functions), and writs of quo warranto (issued against a person or corporation for usurpation, misuse, or abuse of public office or corporate office or franchise).

The Constitution grants the Supreme Court exclusive authority to regulate admission to the practice of law, the discipline of attorneys admitted to practice, and all other matters relating to the practice of law. In connection with this grant of authority, the Supreme Court has promulgated the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio. These rules address, among other things, admission to practice, attorney discipline, attorney registration, continuing legal education, and unauthorized practice of law.

The Constitution also gives the Supreme Court authority to prescribe rules governing practice and procedure in all courts of the state and to exercise general superintendence over all state courts. Procedural rules promulgated by the Supreme Court become effective unless both houses of the General Assembly adopt a concurrent resolution of disapproval. Rules of superintendence over state courts set minimum standards for court administration. Unlike procedural rules, rules of superintendence do not have to be submitted to the General Assembly to become effective.

In connection with all of the rules for which it has responsibility, the Supreme Court generally solicits public comment before adopting new rules or amendments in final form. The Court first publishes its rules and amendments in proposed form. These proposals appear in both the Ohio State Bar Association Reports and the Ohio Official Advance Sheets and indicate the period open for comment and the staff member to whom comments should be directed. The Court reviews all comments submitted before it decides whether to adopt or amend a rule.

Pursuant to the Constitution, the Chief Justice or a Justice designated by the Chief Justice is responsible for ruling on the disqualification of appellate and common pleas court judges. The procedure for obtaining review of a claim of disqualification against an appellate or common pleas judge is commenced by the filing of an affidavit of disqualification with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The Revised Code contains specific requirements governing the filing of affidavits of disqualification.

Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution sets the size of the Court at seven -- a Chief Justice and six Justices, who are elected to six-year terms on a nonpartisan ballot. Two Justices are chosen at the general election in even-numbered years. In the year when the Chief Justice runs, voters pick three members of the Court.

A person must be an attorney with at least six years experience in the practice of law to be elected or appointed to the Supreme Court. Appointments are made by the Governor for vacancies that may occur between elections.

Date Published: April 26, 2019

 

Supreme Court of Ohio

 

Member of Dayton carjacking conspiracy pleads guilty

Carlos Raymond Alvarez, aka “Rico Finessegod”, 25, of Dayton, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to commit carjacking and gun charges for his role in a scheme that lured a victim through a dating app and stole his car when he showed up for his expected date.

UD’s Jake Gilkison finishes in top five at Rutherford Intercollegiate

Jake Gilkison continued to play strong as the Flyers finished strong at the Rutherford Open. Dayton finished in 9th place. The team as a whole shot a 298 + 301 + 289 = 888 (+36). The team was led by Jake Gilkison, who shot a 72 + 71 + 68 = 211 (-2). His impressive three days included an Eagle on the day. This was the second-best finish in the storied career of the Senior from Springboro, Ohio.

Fish dealer sentenced for unlawful trafficking in Michigan lake trout

John H. Cross III (Cross) and John Cross Fisheries Inc. (Cross Fisheries) were sentenced recently in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for trafficking in illegally transported and sold lake trout, announced Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and United States Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan. Cross Fisheries was also sentenced for making false records about whitefish purchases.

Rural courts, sheriffs convene with feds to combat opioids

The opioid epidemic has created a crime and treatment crisis for all kinds of American communities. But the ones that may be most affected are small and rural jurisdictions.

New Oh SNAP mobile phone app provides food assistance information

A new Oh SNAP mobile phone application has detailed information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food programs, not only for Ohioans receiving benefits but for those who think they may be eligible. It’s available for free on mobile devices through the App Store or Google Play.

BGSU research team sheds light on penguin evolution

Dr. Juan Bouzat, a professor in Bowling Green State University’s Department of Biological Sciences, is part of an international research team studying the evolution of penguins. He is a co-author of a study published in the journal of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution that demonstrates the importance of island formation in the diversification of penguins and posits the discovery of two extinct penguin species from New Zealand. The research, recently highlighted by the New York Times, was conducted by a diverse team of 19 scholars representing eight countries and 16 research institutions and universities.

Former CFO at publicly traded transportation company charged with $245 million securities and accounting fraud scheme

Big Lots launches spring campaign benefiting Nationwide Children's

Columbus-based Big Lots has announced the launch of its spring point-of-sale campaign, "Serve Families. Give Big." to benefit Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Senate bill would add two weeks to save speedy-trial violations

A state senator and attorney by trade hopes to correct what he and state prosecutors believe is the disproportionate penalty that results from violation of Ohio's speedy trial statute.

Ohio's 2019 wild turkey season coming soon

For many hunters, spring brings the unmistakable sound of gobbling wild turkeys as Ohio’s annual hunt of this popular game bird begins, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The state is divided into two zones for the 2019 spring turkey hunting season: a south zone, which opens to hunters on Monday, April 22, and a northeast zone, which opens to hunters on Monday, April 29. Hunters can view the 2019 spring turkey season zone map at wildohio.gov.

Seven Ohio men plead guilty to crimes related to sexually abusing children, creating child pornography

Seven Ohio men have pleaded guilty to related crimes regarding child pornography and the sexual abuse of two 10-year-old children.

The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund recognizes #EverydayOhioHeroes for child abuse prevention month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund encourages all Ohioans to join the #EverydayOhioHeroes campaign to recognize everyday heroes who make our community a safe place for families and children. Use #EverydayOhioHeroes on social media to recognize those making a difference.

Former Ohio attorney general Dann goes after BMV for bogus $1.50 fees

A Cleveland law firm headed by former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Ohioans who paid for a false laminating fee of $1.50 since late last year when deputy registrars' ceased distributing state license and ID cards.

Summary for proposed presidential election amendment certified

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office recently certified a summary of a petition for a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution. The proposed amendment would change the way Ohio’s Electoral College members vote in presidential elections. An alternative summary for the same proposed amendment was rejected.

Man indicted for allegedly committing five armed robberies in December 2018

A Cleveland man was indicted for allegedly committing five armed robberies in December 2018.

Three charged with filing $1.9 million in false tax returns

Two defendants plead guilty

2019 Lake Erie fishing outlook is once again great news for anglers

Lake Erie anglers have the chance to experience excellent fishing opportunities on Lake Erie in 2019, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Walleye angler harvest rates set records in 2018, and numerous large hatches point to a bright future for the Walleye Capital of the World.

Jury finds Toledo pastor guilty of sex trafficking of a minor and other crimes

A jury found a Toledo pastor guilty of sex trafficking of a minor and other crimes, U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman and FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith said.

Bill would providing privacy shield to mental health workers

A bipartisan effort to expand privacy protections for certain mental health workers cleared the Ohio House of Representatives recently and awaits Senate consideration.

Ohio probate judge publicly reprimanded for presiding over ex-client cases

The Ohio Supreme Court recently publicly reprimanded a Mahoning County probate judge for taking action as a judge on cases in which he previously served as a lawyer. The Court noted there was no evidence that Rusu’s misconduct caused any measurable harm or that it “resulted in anything less than the evenhanded administration of justice.”