Attorney Suspended for Harmful Status of Opposing Attorney, Legal Neighborhood

The Supreme Court docket of Ohio right now suspended a Cuyahoga County attorney for asking a choose to refer an opposing lawyer for psychological health and fitness screening to tension that legal professional into dismissing a contentious situation.

In a unanimous conclusion, the Supreme Courtroom suspended Douglas Whipple of College Heights for 1 yr, with 6 months stayed. The Court docket identified Whipple violated ethical policies by building threats of submitting criminal charges or skilled misconduct charges for the sole function of attaining an advantage in a civil issue.

In 2019, Whipple filed a motion requesting that the trial choose refer attorney Roger Synenberg to the Ohio Lawyers Support Application (OLAP). Whipple said in court docket that he would fall the request if Synenberg and the other opposing lawyers agreed to dismiss a extended estate-planning circumstance.

In a for every curiam impression, the Court docket stated that Whipple damaged not only Synenberg’s track record with the allegations of psychological wellness problems, but also the status of the authorized job by “reinforcing just one of the worst stereotypes of lawyers – that they will abuse the authorized approach to get an unfair gain for their consumers.”

Estate Dispute Leads to Prolonged Courtroom Case
Glenn Seeley was a retired attorney and pal of Whipple’s. In 2010, Seeley granted his wife, Kristina, electrical power of attorney to manage his finances and wellness care. He also specified his spouse as a co-trustee of a belief in his identify. By early 2015, Glenn was identified with Alzheimer’s ailment and moved into a facility for all those struggling from dementia.

In February 2016, Glenn signed a 2nd resilient power of lawyer, providing his son, Gregory, and his grandson, Matthew, (both of those lawyers), electrical power to handle his finances. Whipple also alleged that Glenn amended his have confidence in to make Gregory the co-trustee of his believe in, changing Kristina.

In November 2016, Kristina, who is Gregory’s stepmother, hired Whipple to obstacle the validity of the paperwork signed early in the 12 months. In January 2017, Whipple submitted a lawsuit on behalf of Glenn and Kristina Seeley versus Gregory and another attorney. Synenberg and two other attorneys have been employed to symbolize Gregory and the other lawyer.

Soon after approximately two a long time of contentious litigation, the parties agreed to a settlement in December 2018. The upcoming thirty day period, the trial court established the settlement was fair and directed the events to total their remaining obligations, which includes publishing a filing to the court to formally dismiss the circumstance.

Settlement Dispute Prompts Controversial Request from Decide
About two months just after agreeing to the settlement, Synenberg questioned whether Kristina was mentally knowledgeable to indicator the settlement agreement. Whipple asserted she was. The demo court docket tried to have the events affirm the settlement and set a listening to for a Monday morning in June 2019.

Late on the Friday right before the hearing, Whipple submitted a motion requesting that the judge refer Synenberg to OLAP. In this motion, Whipple alleged Synenberg’s “performance as a attorney was impaired by a psychological or emotional situation or some other issue.” He maintained Synenberg was making unfounded assaults on Kristina’s mental capacity and needlessly delaying the case’s dismissal.

In his movement, Whipple referred to an unrelated large-profile case involving Synenberg. Based mostly on media studies of the unrelated case, Whipple accused Synenberg of retaliating in opposition to a witness who testified in opposition to one of Synenberg’s clients. Retaliating from a witness is a 3rd-degree felony. Whipple also created other promises from Synenberg, together with that he made misrepresentations to the court docket and defamed Whipple’s paralegal, who is also Whipple’s wife.

At the Monday hearing, Synenberg and his colleagues objected to the movement, professing it was frivolous. Whipple informed the trial decide that he envisioned Synenberg and the other lawyers to sign the arrangement to dismiss the situation. If not, he needed to continue with the motion to have Synenberg referred to OLAP.

The trial decide did not act on the movement, and later elevated the problem of irrespective of whether Whipple’s request violated the qualified perform rule that prohibits threatening to demand an opposing attorney with a criminal offense or specialist misconduct solely to achieve an benefit in a civil make a difference.

The Seeley scenario was dismissed, but based mostly on the motion, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Affiliation filed a criticism versus Whipple with the Board of Skilled Carry out.

Board Uncovered Rule Violations
The demo choose in the Seeley make any difference testified at Whipple’s disciplinary hearing. The judge advised a a few-member panel that Whipple was expressing his anger with the court docket for the delays and his annoyance with Synenberg. The judge indicated the motion, which is a public record, was intended to force Synenberg and the other attorneys to finish the questioning of Kristina’s competency and settle the circumstance.

Whipple managed he did not dedicate any ethical violations and was expressing a correct concern for Synenberg’s mental overall health. The board disagreed and suggested the Supreme Courtroom suspend Whipple for one particular calendar year, with six months stayed.

Whipple objected to the board advice, suggesting his perform at most warranted a general public reprimand. The objection triggered oral arguments in advance of the Courtroom.

Supreme Court Examined Allegations
The belief said the Court’s impartial assessment of the document gives overwhelming evidence that the sole purpose of Whipple’s movement was to power Synenberg to end questioning Kristina’s potential and concur to dismiss the scenario. The Court docket famous Whipple’s individual actions at the hearing refute his statements that he had sincere problem for the opposing lawyer. Whipple only agreed to withdraw the motion if Synenberg agreed to settle.

The Court docket noted that by implying Synenberg was committing the criminal offense of witness retaliation, Whipple was also alleging that Synenberg engaged in expert misconduct. The claims violate the rule of alleging a criminal offense or experienced misconduct to acquire a lawful gain, the Court docket concluded.

Whipple also explained that his feedback did not harm Synenberg’s status, and that Synenberg had downplayed the significance of Whipple’s accusations. The belief stated an attorney’s “most worthwhile asset is his or her experienced name for competence, honesty, and integrity.”

The Court docket said that Whipple went much past citing the publicized unrelated case about opportunity witness retaliation by professing Synenberg’s steps “were adversely affected by some unknown affliction.” People allegations in a public submitting brought on some damage to Synenberg’s reputation, the viewpoint stated.

“In addition to the hurt Whipple’s allegations inflected on Synenberg’s name, his perform also brought about immeasurable damage to the community perception of the legal career. On these information, Whipple’s perform warrants a sanction increased than the community reprimand that he seeks,” the Court concluded.

The 6-thirty day period stay of Whipple’s one particular-year suspension is conditioned on not committing more misconduct. He was also ordered to fork out the charges of the disciplinary proceedings.

2021-0229. Cleveland Metro Bar Assn. v. Whipple, Slip View No. 2022-Ohio-510.

Check out oral argument movie of this circumstance.

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