Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Cleveland Attorney Suspended

The law license of Cleveland attorney James W. Westfall, Jr. has been suspended for two years for multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In a 6-1 decision authored by Justice Yvette McGee Brown,  the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that after accepting fee advances from clients in three different bankruptcy cases, Westfall failed to perform promised legal services, advised the clients that he was closing their cases for failure to provide requested information and that reopening their cases would requiring payment of additional fees and costs, and failed to refund  any of the clients’ unearned legal fees despite their repeated requests that he do so.

The court also adopted board findings that Westfall withheld payroll taxes from his employees’ wages but failed to remit either the withheld funds or his employer’s share to the Internal Revenue Service for portions of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 tax years, and that he made a false statement to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association during its investigation of his misconduct.

As conditions for reinstatement of Westfall’s license after he serves  his term of suspension, the court ordered that he must commit no further misconduct, make restitution to his clients in specified amounts, and either pay all taxes, interest and penalties owed to the federal government or provide proof of an agreed payment plan with which he is in compliance.

Justice McGee Brown’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Judith Ann Lanzinger, and Robert R. Cupp.  Justice Terrence O’Donnell dissented, stating that he would impose a two-year license suspension with the second year stayed on conditions.

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2012-1003. Cleveland Metro. Bar Assn. v. Westfall, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-5365.
On Certified Report of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 11-063.  James W. Westfall Jr., Attorney Registration No. 0029420, is suspended from the practice of law in Ohio for two years.
O’Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, Lanzinger, Cupp, and McGee Brown, JJ., concur.
O’Donnell, J., dissents and would impose a two-year suspension with one year stayed.

Video clip View oral argument video of this case.

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