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Court News Ohio

Youngstown Attorney Indefinitely Suspended

The Ohio Supreme Court today indefinitely suspended from the practice of law a Youngstown attorney with three prior disciplinary sanctions.

This was the fourth time since 1997 that Dennis A. DiMartino was sanctioned by the Supreme Court, which noted the present complaints about him are similar to the previous incidents that led to past suspensions, including neglecting client matters, failing to account for settlement funds, and dishonesty.

Two Complaints About Mishandled Cases, Client Funds
In Mahoning Cty. Bar Assn. v. DiMartino, the Mahoning County Bar Association brought two complaints by DiMartino clients to the Court’s Board of Professional Conduct, which recommended the indefinite suspension.

In a unanimous per curiam decision, the Court found DiMartino violated several rules governing the conduct of attorneys while representing Ember Herrington. She hired DiMartino to represent her in a personal-injury case related to a car accident. As part of the case, DiMartino filed a lawsuit against her auto insurer for additional compensation not covered by the person who caused the accident. Herrington received auto and health insurance through her mother’s policies. DiMartino received $15,000 from the insurer, which he deposited in a state-required client trust account, and then paid himself $5,000 from the proceeds. He sent Herrington a $5,400 check, and testified he couldn’t account for the other $4,600.

Herrington’s mother’s health insurer sent a bill to be reimbursed for the medical expenses it paid from the money DiMartino collected from the auto insurer. DiMartino stated he thought he sent the health insurer $4,600, but had no record of it, and when the insurer never received the funds, it started sending collection notices to Herrington’s mother. DiMartino assured her he would correct the problem, but never did, and then failed to return follow-up phone calls from the mother, who filed a grievance with the bar association. When the bar association inquired into the matter, DiMartino failed to respond to its requests for information.

In a separate complaint, Paul and Kathy Melia retained DiMartino for a medical malpractice case and he failed to appear at several hearings, failed to oppose a motion for summary judgment filed by the opponents, and did not return the Melias’ phone calls. Their case was dismissed, and DiMartino failed to tell them. Paul Melia filed a complaint with the bar association, which again was unable to get DiMartino to respond to its inquiries about the grievance.

Sanctions Based on Numerous Infractions
The Board of Professional Conduct found DiMartino violated several rules in these matters including: failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing a client; not keeping a client informed about the status of a matter; neglecting to communicate the nature and scope of representation and the fee and expenses for that representation; failing to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation; and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

At a hearing before a three-member board panel, DiMartino testified he suffered from depression and that it contributed to his misconduct. However, when given time to submit a psychological report and character references, he did not submit the information by the deadline.

“An indefinite suspension here is consistent with our ‘rule that an attorney’s neglect of legal matters and failure to cooperate in the ensuring disciplinary investigation warrant an indefinite suspension,’” the Court stated citing its 2007 Disciplinary Counsel v. Mathewson decision.

In addition to the suspension, DiMartino was ordered to pay $4,600 in restitution to Herrington and her mother, and his future reinstatement was conditioned on providing proof of a mental-health evaluation and treatment plan, and completing coursework on law-office management.

2014-2250. Mahoning Cty. Bar Assn. v. DiMartino, Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-536.

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