Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court Suspends Cincinnati Attorney Who Failed to Comply with Federal Court Rules

The Ohio Supreme Court today suspended a Cincinnati attorney for two years, with one year stayed, for misconduct that also landed him a two-year ban from practicing in a federal district court in Kentucky.

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court suspended John E. Mahin, and stayed the second year of his suspension with the condition that he not commit further professional misconduct. Mahin was suspended by the Court for two years in June 2016, after a felony conviction for converting $15,000 in law-firm funds for personal use. (See Two Attorneys Suspended from Practice of Law.)

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Judith L. French, Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody J. Stewart joined the opinion. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in judgment only.

Judge Complains about Attorney’s Actions
In March 2017, Mahin filed a personal-injury lawsuit on behalf of two clients in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The local court rules allow for attorneys to file cases if they have been admitted to practice in Kentucky or they could apply to work in the district court using its pro hac vice admission procedures.

Mahin was not admitted to practice in Kentucky and did not request pro hac vice admission when he submitted the lawsuit. While the court required attorneys to use its electronic case-filing system, Mahin filed his complaint in person at the federal courthouse.

The federal court clerk sent Mahin a notice to the address he provided informing him he was not admitted to practice and provided him with an application along with a copy of the local rules. In August 2017, Judge David Bunning ordered Mahin to file a status report, and explain why the case should not be dismissed because of his failure to follow court rules.

Mahin did not respond, and Judge Bunning dismissed the case without prejudice. Mahin refiled the complaint in September 2018, and Judge Bunning ordered Mahin to explain why the case should not be dismissed for failing to be filed within the applicable statute of limitations.

Although Mahin moved his offices, the clerk sent the judge’s order to Mahin’s old office address, and it was returned as undeliverable. Judge Bunning then ordered Mahin to explain why he had not applied for admission or provided a valid mailing address. Mahin failed to appear at the hearing, and the judge later dismissed his case. The judge also prohibited Mahin from practicing in the Eastern District of Kentucky for two years and forwarded his decision to Ohio disciplinary authorities.

Attorney Claims Misconduct Unintentional
Based on the judge’s decision and a dispute with a client, the Cincinnati Bar Association asked the Board of Professional Conduct to find Mahin violated several of the rules governing the professional conduct of Ohio attorneys.

At a disciplinary hearing, Mahin testified he never received the district court’s notices and orders and learned of the initial dismissal two months after the judge’s order. He acknowledged that he failed to provide the court with his updated office mailing address, did not register to use the court’s electronic-filing systems, and did not check the online docket to determine the status of the case.

After he refiled the case, he again stated he did not receive court notices, but also again acknowledged he did not update his address, use the electronic case-filing system, or check the online docket. He testified his misconduct was unintentional and that he had little experience practicing in federal court.

The board concluded his lack of federal-court experience was not an excuse, and failing to follow the court’s procedures violated several rules, including disobeying court rules and practicing in a jurisdiction in violation of that jurisdiction’s regulations.

Attorney Asked Client to Drop Complaint
The bar association also received a grievance from a Mahin client who hired him in May 2017 to file a personal-injury lawsuit. In November 2017, Mahin conveyed a settlement offer to the other party , but Mahin and the client agreed it was too low and that he should initiate the lawsuit. The client gave Mahin $325 for the filing fee.

The client told the board that Mahin told her in January 2018 that he filed the lawsuit, which Mahin denied. He did not file the lawsuit until June 2018, and the client accused him of lying to her. She claimed he had filed the complaint only after learning that she was seeking another lawyer and firing him.  The client also sought a $325 refund.

Mahin requested a “lien” be placed on the matter to ensure he would be paid for his work in the case when the matter was resolved. Mahin proposed to the client’s new attorney that he would refund the $325 and withdraw the lien if the client withdrew her grievance. While the client attempted to withdraw her grievance, the bar association continued investigating Mahin, and filed a complaint with the board.

The board found Mahin violated the professional conduct rules, including engaging conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

The Court agreed with the board’s conclusions. In addition to the suspension, the Court ordered Mahin to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2020-0469. Cincinnati Bar Assn. v. Mahin, Slip Opinion No. 2020-Ohio-4098.

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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