The Supreme Court of Ohio has permanently revoked the law license of Cleveland attorney Kenneth Jeff Freeman for neglect of entrusted legal matters and other violations of state professional conduct rules in his dealings with two clients, overdrawing a trust account in which he was supposed to be holding funds that belonged to his clients, and repeatedly failing to respond to requests for information or otherwise cooperate with disciplinary authorities investigating his misconduct.
In a 7-0 per curiam decision announced Wednesday, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that in one case Freeman agreed to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition and seek a home mortgage modification on behalf of a client, but did neither and subsequently failed to return any of the $16,000 the client had entrusted to him to catch up on delinquent payments under a previous bankruptcy plan.
The court also found that in a separate case Freeman accepted fee advances of more than $3,000 from a client to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and represent the client in a mortgage foreclosure action, but failed to file a bankruptcy petition, delayed acting in the foreclosure matter until after the lender had obtained a default judgment against his client, and failed to refund the unearned fee advances after the client fired him and retained another attorney.
The court noted that Freeman, who has been disciplined on two prior occasions for neglect of legal matters and failure to effectively communicate with his clients, failed to answer inquiries from the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association regarding the client grievances arising from his latest misconduct.
The state disciplinary board ultimately had to prosecute the current charges against Freeman through default proceedings when he failed to answer the complaint brought against him or otherwise cooperate with disciplinary authorities.
In adopting the board's recommendation that Freeman be permanently disbarred, the court found the aggravating factors that he "has committed prior disciplinary offenses, has engaged in a pattern of misconduct involving multiple offenses, has failed to cooperate in the disciplinary process, has refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct, has caused harm to vulnerable clients, and has failed to make restitution. ... (T)he presumptive sanction for accepting retainers and then failing to carry out the contract of employment is disbarment because such conduct is tantamount to theft. ... In the absence of any mitigating factors to warrant the imposition of a lesser sanction, we agree that permanent disbarment is the appropriate sanction here."
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