The Supreme Court of Ohio has suspended the law license of Warren attorney John H. Large for two years, with the final six months of that term stayed on conditions.
The suspension comes as a result of his misconduct in his dealings with three clients and for lying to the Supreme Court while seeking reinstatement from a prior disciplinary suspension.
In a 7-0 opinion announced Thursday, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that after accepting fee advances from three clients, Large improperly deposited them into his law-office checking account rather than in a client trust account as required by state disciplinary rules.
The court also agreed with the board’s findings that Large neglected the legal matters for those clients and failed to respond to the clients’ repeated inquiries about the status of their cases or return case files and unearned fees.
In setting the sanction for his misconduct, the court noted, among others, the aggravating factors that Large had a previous history of disciplinary offenses, committed multiple rule violations, acted with a selfish motive, failed to fully cooperate with disciplinary authorities or acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct and caused harm to vulnerable clients.
As conditions for reinstating Large’s license after he serves 18 months of the two-year suspension starting Thursday, the court ordered that he must avoid any further misconduct and refund to the Client Security Fund within 90 days any amounts paid from that fund to his clients as compensation for losses they suffered.
In the first case, Christina Ward of Eastlake paid Large a $2,000 retainer fee June 19, 2008, for him to handle her divorce complaint. In early July, Ward said one of Large’s office assistants told her that her complaint had been filed in court.
However, her complaint actually wasn’t filed until Sept. 23, the day after she faxed Large a letter, in which she fired him as her lawyer and demanded her money back. Ward didn’t get her money back until late February 2009, minus $255 in court costs and $647.50 in lawyer fees, the bar association said.
In the second case, Jennifer A. Natali of Boardman paid Large a $1,400 fee to file her bankruptcy petition, but Large failed to file it and failed to notify her of his May 6, 2009, suspension from law practice by the Ohio Supreme Court, according to the complaint filed against Large by the Trumbull County Bar Association. The Ohio Supreme Court suspended Large’s law license for one year after he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal income-tax returns and was put on four years’ probation.
In the third case, Robert J. Burk of Girard paid Large $475 on Jan. 15, 2009, to file a motion to terminate a child-support order. Large filed the motion March 16, 2009, and notified Burk about a June 2009 court hearing but failed to tell Burk about his suspension from law practice, the bar association said.
The bar association said Large falsely told the top court in his reinstatement application that he had notified his clients of his suspension and refunded their money within 30 days.
The association also said Large told the Ohio Supreme Court that no new discipline was pending against him despite his having been notified that the association was probing the Ward, Natali and Burk complaints against him.