The lawyer made attempts to correct the matter.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS -- Atty. Robert Melnick of Salem received a public reprimand from the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday for notarizing signatures without witnessing them first.
Melnick's actions before and after the occurrence kept the attorney from receiving harsher punishment from the high court, court documents say.
"[Melnick] committed this infraction several times, but he also tried to promptly right each of the wrongs he committed," the decision read. "We find this and his lack of a disciplinary record, his apparent good character and reputation, and his cooperation mitigating enough to avoid any suspension of his license to practice."
Melnick was working for Prudential Property and Casualty on a lawsuit against Ohio Edison Co. concerning a residential fire.
While on the case, he was called into active duty as a reserve officer in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps twice, and both times he had the owner of the property distribute affidavits to neighbors. The owner obtained signatures on three of the documents and Melnick later notarized the signatures.
According to the decision, this was brought to the attention of the attorneys representing Ohio Edison.
A complaint was filed in 2004, and the Mahoning County Bar Association charged that Melnick had notarized three signatures without having witnessed them. Melnick is a member of the county bar and has a law office in Youngstown.
A panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline heard the case and found a violation and recommended the public reprimand.
The board adopted the panel's findings, and the case came before the Supreme Court.
"In recommending a sanction for this misconduct, the panel and board considered the aggravating and mitigating factors of respondent's case and found nothing that weighed in favor of a sanction more onerous than the proposed public reprimand," the high court's decision read.
The board also found that Melnick had not acted "in self-interest and had tried to rectify his wrongdoing" by obtaining confirmation the signatures were genuine.