Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Mason Attorney Suspended for Neglecting Client Matters

A Mason, Ohio, attorney was suspended today for two years, with 18 months stayed, for professional misconduct, including two instances where he terminated his representation without notifying the clients.

In a unanimous per curiam decision, the Supreme Court suspended Edward P. Brueggeman. This is the second time the Court has suspended Brueggeman for neglecting client matters and his third overall suspension since 2010.

Brueggeman received a one-year, fully stayed suspension in 2010 for his neglect of four client matters, failing to reasonably communicate with affected clients, and not cooperating with the disciplinary investigations. In 2013, he was suspended for six days for missing the deadline to register as a practicing attorney in Ohio.

After receiving complaints from Brueggeman’s clients, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel charged Brueggeman in April 2019 with providing incompetent representation to two clients, ignoring their legal matters, engaging in dishonest conduct, and not responding to reasonable requests for information from his clients.

Attorney Hired to Handle Estate
In 2017, Rebecca Lowry paid Brueggeman $750 to handle the estate of her deceased brother, Christopher Yates. She informed Brueggeman that she wanted to sell her brother’s truck and asked him how she should complete the transaction.

Lowry said Brueggeman told her to sign her brother’s name to the truck title and backdate the signature so that the truck did not have to pass through the probate estate. ¬†While denying that he told Lowry to sign her brother’s name, Brueggeman admitted he notarized the signature, falsely certifying that Yates had signed the document in his presence.

Lowry also met with Brueggeman about how to disclaim her mother’s interest in her brother’s estate. Her mother was in a nursing home and enrolled in Medicaid. Lowry wanted her mother to disclaim the house so that it could pass to another brother.

Brueggeman later determined Lowry did not have the authority to carry out the plan. He informed her he could not achieve her desired result, but did not tell her that he intended to terminate his representation. He stopped working on the case, and did not respond to Lowry’s attempts to communicate with him.

Lowry then hired a new lawyer, and after she filed a grievance, Brueggeman refunded her the $750 retainer she paid him.

Family Late to Receive Required Notices
Angela and Irene Baker hired Brueggeman in 2017 to probate the estate of their deceased mother in Medina County. Brueggeman told the women he would mail waivers of the hearing on the inventory of the estate to each of their mother’s 14 children.

He did not mail the waivers until one day before the deadline for completing and filing them in probate court. The Bakers were issued a delinquency notice, giving them 30 days to file the documents. Weeks later, Brueggeman told the court all persons entitled to receive the notices had received them, but he did not provide any proof, and only submitted waivers for four of the 14 children.

In 2018, Brueggeman wrote to the probate court magistrate handling the matter seeking guidance on how to proceed because the estate’s liabilities exceeded its assets. The magistrate did not respond. At a status conference, Brueggeman asked for additional guidance from the magistrate on how to proceed, but the magistrate responded that she could not give legal advice and that he should read the relevant state law on the issues he faced.

After the status conference, Brueggeman told Irene Baker that he could not keep making the 400-mile round trip from Mason to Medina for hearings, but did not tell her he was terminating his representation or that she needed another lawyer. Instead, he said he would contact the mother’s creditors and attempt to negotiate the debts.

For more than a month, Brueggeman failed to respond to more than 40 attempted communications from the Baker family. Irene Baker then hired a new lawyer.

After a hearing on the complaints, the Board of Professional Conduct found that Brueggeman engaged in conduct involving dishonest, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; failed to act with reasonable diligence in representing clients; failed to respond to reasonable client requests for information; and failed to provide competent representation.

Previous Infractions Influence Sanction
Brueggeman argued that he should receive a fully stayed suspension. Because he had previously been disciplined for the same type of misconduct, the disciplinary counsel recommended he should receive a two-year suspension with 18 months stayed.

The board agreed with the disciplinary counsel’s proposal and recommended it to the Court. The Court agreed and suspended Brueggeman with the condition that he commit no further misconduct and pay for the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2019-1734. Disciplinary Counsel v. Brueggeman, Slip Opinion No. 2020-Ohio-1734.

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.

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