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Lorain County Attorney Receives Third Suspension

Because he was suspended twice before, a Lorain County attorney’s failure to diligently represent a client landed him a two-year suspension from the Ohio Supreme Court today.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court suspended Kenneth Lewis of North Ridgeville for two years and made the suspension retroactive to May 2020, when he would have been eligible to seek reinstatement from his 2018 suspension. That suspension resulted from giving a false written statement to police about an alcohol-related traffic accident. (See Cleveland Attorney Suspended for Lying to Police after Car Wreck.)

The Board of Professional Conducted noted that Lewis’ most recent violations of the rules governing the conduct of Ohio attorneys would have warranted a public reprimand or fully stayed suspension had he not had two prior suspensions. The Court agreed with the board’s assessment that a two-year suspension with conditions for reinstatement was the appropriate sanction.

Client Complaint Arrives While Suspension Ruling Was Pending Lewis had been previously suspended by the Court – for one year in 2009 after it found he had forged a judge’s signature on a court entry. Then, in May 2018, he was suspended for two years, with six months stayed.

In June 2016, he and another attorney were involved in a single-car accident after leaving an Elyria bar. The two were walking away from the accident scene when Elyria police stopped them for questioning. The two attorneys claimed they were only passengers in the car and another man was driving. Lewis admitted the following day to submitting a false written statement to the police about the accident.

Lewis was arrested and charged with obstructing justice, and the Lorain County Bar Association opened a disciplinary investigation of him. He pleaded no contest in Elyria Municipal Court and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 80 days suspended; received one year of probation; and was fined $750.

The Court suspended him for two years with six months stayed. The stayed portion required that he sign an Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) contract and continue his involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which he had been actively engaged in prior to the suspension.

Although Lewis’ previous suspension expired on May 30, 2020, he has not applied for reinstatement and remained under suspension.

Client Complaint Leads to Third Suspension The bar association charged Lewis with failing to diligently communicate and represent Sandra Deem in a domestic-relations matter. The rule violations occurred in early 2018 before the Court suspended Lewis in May 2018.

Deem hired Lewis to represent her in a marriage-dissolution proceeding. As part of the trial court’s December 2017 entry granting the dissolution, Lewis was required to prepare and submit orders to divide the couple’s retirement assets. Lewis failed to prepare the orders and had no further communication with Deem. Lewis disregarded numerous phone calls from Deem and her ex-husband.

In April 2018, after none of the retirement funds had been distributed, Deem filed a grievance against Lewis with the bar association. Deem was forced to find another lawyer. In May 2020, Lewis paid Deem $2,490 in restitution, which covered her costs for hiring a new lawyer and having the orders prepared.

The board found Lewis violated several rules, including failing to act with reasonable diligence on a client matter, and failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter.

Prior Misconduct Factors into Court Sanction Before the Court issues a sanction, it considers aggravating circumstances that could increase the penalty it imposes and mitigating factors that could lead to a lesser sanction.

The Court considered Lewis’ prior disciplinary record and that he committed multiple offenses. The Court also noted he lacked dishonest and selfish motives, cooperated with the disciplinary process, made restitution to Deem, and “expressed sincere regret for mishandling Deem’s case.”

The bar association and Lewis jointly recommended to the board that he serve a two-year suspension and submit to another OLAP assessment. The parties also agreed that should Lewis be reinstated, he serve one year of monitored probation. The Court agreed with the board’s recommendation and that Lewis must comply with any recommendations resulting from the OLAP assessment, complete six hours of continuing legal education in law-office management, serve one year of monitored probation, and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2020-0971. Lorain Cty. Bar Assn. v. Lewis, Slip Opinion No. 2021-Ohio-805.

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.