Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Dayton Area Attorney Receives Stayed Suspension

A Dayton area attorney received a six-month stayed suspension from the Ohio Supreme Court today for his conduct related to the disputed representation of a client.

The Supreme Court voted 6-0 to suspend C. Ralph Wilcoxson II of Vandalia for six months, which was stayed on the condition that he not violate any rule governing the conduct of Ohio lawyers. Justice Mary DeGenaro did not participate in the case.

In a per curiam opinion, the Court adopted a “consent to discipline” reached between the Dayton Bar Association and Wilcoxson and approved by the Board of Professional Conduct. Wilcoxson served as a Montgomery County Juvenile Court magistrate from 1998 to 2010, with the final 10 years as chief magistrate.

Attorney Briefly Suspended in 2017
The Dayton Bar Association charged Wilcoxson with multiple ethical violations in 2017 arising from his neglect of a single legal matter in 2014 while in private practice. Wilcoxson initially failed to answer the complaint against him, and the Supreme Court imposed an interim default suspension in June 2017.

Three days later, he requested the Court’s permission to respond to the complaint and for the Court to vacate the suspension. The Court granted the request, remanded the case to the board for further proceedings, and reinstated Wilcoxson to the practice of law pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Client Payments Lead to Dispute
Wilcoxson agreed to file a federal employment discrimination lawsuit for a client in 2014. The client agreed to pay a $1,000 retainer and a $400 court filing fee. The client failed to make the payment, and Wilcoxson then agreed to do the work once the client paid half the retainer and the full filing fee.

Instead of making the $900 payment, the client paid $500 just days before the deadline to file the lawsuit. Wilcoxson filed the lawsuit in December 2014, four days after the deadline. The client’s former employer asked the federal court to dismiss the case for missing the deadline. Wilcoxson did not oppose the motion, and the court ruled the case was filed too late.

While Wilcoxson stated he told the client he expected the case would be dismissed, he did not inform the client about the status of the case until after it was dismissed.

Client Files Complaint
Wilcoxson’s client hired a new attorney and filed the discrimination lawsuit in state court. The new lawyer requested that Wilcoxson provide the client’s file, which Wilcoxson did not do. The client filed a grievance with the bar association in August 2015.

Wilcoxson did not respond to a bar association investigator’s requests for a meeting or the production of the client file. However, he did voluntarily appear before the bar association’s certified grievance committee in January 2016. He admitted at the meeting that he failed to properly handle the legal matter. Several months later, Wilcoxson had a chance encounter with his former client and agreed to refund $300 of the $500 payment.

Wilcoxson and the bar association stipulated that Wilcoxson violated several rules, including those that require a lawyer to act with reasonable diligence when representing a client; to keep a client informed of the status of a matter; and to respond to an information demand from disciplinary authority during an investigation.

When recommending a sanction, the board considers aggravating circumstances that would increase the punishment it suggests for a lawyer and mitigating factors, which could lead to a reduced penalty.

The parties agreed that Wilcoxson failed to notify his client that he did not maintain malpractice insurance. In contrast, they noted he had no prior discipline, there was absence of a dishonest or selfish motive, and he paid restitution. He also provided evidence of his good character and reputation.

The Court agreed that the six-month stayed suspension is “the appropriate sanction for the misconduct.”

2017-0063. Dayton Bar Assn. v. Wilcoxson, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-2699.

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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