Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Toledo Area Attorney Suspended for Filing False Tax Returns

A Sylvania attorney convicted in federal court of filing a false tax return was suspended for two years, with one year stayed, by the Ohio Supreme Court today.

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court found John J. Manore III violated the rules governing the conduct of Ohio lawyers when he was indicted on three counts of filing false tax returns by underreporting his income. He pleaded guilty to one count in January 2018, and less than a month later, the Court placed him under an interim suspension.

The Court today granted Manore credit for the time served under the interim suspension. The Court also directed that once he is reinstated to the practice of law, he must serve one year of monitored probation, during which another attorney would monitor his office’s operating and client-trust accounts and his compliance with tax laws and regulations.

Justices Judith L. French, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody J. Stewart joined the opinion.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Patrick F. Fischer stated they would not grant Manore credit for time served during the interim suspension.

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in part and dissented in part, stating she would not impose the monitored probation. Justice R. Patrick DeWine joined Justice Kennedy’s opinion.

Attorney Deceives IRS
Manore practiced 14 years at two different law firms before opening a solo practice in 2008. In 2010, after receiving reports that Manore’s wife was making large cash deposits and withdrawals from a bank, the IRS launched an investigation. In March 2015, the federal government indicted Manore for filing false 2008, 2009, and 2010 tax returns.

In August 2017, Manore pleaded guilty to filing a false 2009 tax return, and the federal district court found him guilty of the offense in January 2018. The court dismissed the remaining charges and placed Manore on one-year of probation and ordered him to pay the IRS $42,472.

Based on the tax charges, the Toledo Bar Association filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct, charging Manore with committing an illegal act that reflects adversely on his honesty and trustworthiness, and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The parties stipulated to the facts and misconduct, and the board found Manore violated the rules.

Court Considered Appropriate Sanction
When considering recommending a sanction to the Court, the board considers several factors including aggravating circumstances that could enhance a penalty and mitigating factors that could lead to a less-severe punishment.

The board and the parties agreed that Manore acted with a dishonest or selfish motive, engaged in a pattern of misconduct, and committed multiple offenses. The board also found Manore did not accept full responsibility for his conduct because he testified during disciplinary proceedings that he failed to review his tax returns and take appropriate steps to ensure their accuracy. The board stated that Manore was suggesting his crime was the result of disorganized recordkeeping rather than a deliberate attempt to avoid paying his full tax obligation.

The Court’s opinion stated the board expressed frustration that Manore failed to clearly state his gross income when he testified or explain the large amounts of cash – $5,000 to $6,000 – that he gave to his wife monthly.

As mitigating factors, the board found Manore had no prior discipline, cooperated with the disciplinary proceedings, presented multiple letters attesting to his reputation and professional competence, and was criminally punished for his behavior. The board noted Manore said he has implemented internal processes and procedures to prevent his misconduct, and hired an accountant to prepare his tax returns.

The Court stayed the second year of his suspension under the conditions that he does not commit further misconduct and demonstrates he is in compliance with his restitution order. The Court noted that Manore has paid back the $27,689 in taxes he owed the IRS and is complying with the order to pay $14,738 in penalties and interest.
Concurring and Dissenting Opinion Finds Probation Unhelpful
In her concurring and dissenting opinion, Justice Kennedy disagreed with the imposition of a one-year period of monitored probation,  She wrote that “[m]onitored probation is a valuable tool’ in the disciplinary process and that the bar association is responsible for appointing an attorney who must volunteer to monitor Manore’s compliance with the conditions of probation.

She wrote that attorneys are “called upon to do a great many other acts of goodwill to improve the condition and public view of our legal system” and “to give back to their communities in charitable efforts.” As such, monitoring attorneys are a “precious finite resource” that should be used judiciously, and monitored probation for Manore is not a constructive use of this prized commodity as it “will not benefit Manore, the bar, or the public.”

Because Manore’s failure to file accurate tax returns was a “deliberate” act and not the result of “disorganized management of his operating and client-trust accounts,” there is nothing for a monitor to supervise, she stated.

“There is no amount of monitoring that will educate Manore, correct his behavior, or protect the public when he returns to the practice of law. The only person who can help Manore become and remain a law-abiding citizen is Manore, by refraining from violating the law,” she wrote.

2019-0212. Toledo Bar Assn. v. Manore, Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-3846.

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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