COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - The Ohio Supreme Court was expected to hear arguments Tuesday on a proposed six-month law license suspension of former state Attorney General Marc Dann.
The Court's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline's recommendation, released in December, is based on findings that Dann was convicted of two misdemeanor offenses and violated state attorney discipline rules by improperly using funds from his political campaign account to provide extra compensation to two senior members of his staff, and by filing inaccurate financial disclosure statements while he held public office.
In particular, the 28-member board found that Dann engaged in conduct that adversely reflected on his "fitness" to practice law by using campaign funds to cover the Columbus living expenses of two senior aides while they were employed by the Attorney General's Office.
The board also found that Dann failed to report in his 2006 and 2007 financial disclosure statements checks he received from his campaign account or his use of a private jet leased by a campaign contributor to fly himself, family members and guests to a conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Dann has admitted to the charged rule violations, but has filed objections to the board's recommendation of an actual suspension of his license.
Dann asserts that the sanction recommended in his case is disproportionate to the penalties the Court imposed for similar ethics violations committed by former Gov. Bob Taft, who received a public reprimand, and former Cleveland City Council President George Forbes, who received a fully stayed license suspension.
Dann notes that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which prosecuted the complaint against him, has twice stipulated that a stayed license suspension would be an appropriate penalty for his misconduct, but has been overruled on both occasions by the disciplinary board.
He is now asking the state's high court to impose a stayed license suspension.
The disciplinary counsel, which says it took note of Dann's pro bono legal services to numerous low-income clients of the Cleveland Legal Aid Society since his resignation, argues that the "negative public attention" brought to bear on the Attorney General's Office and the legal system justifies its recommended suspension.
Dann was forced to resign as the state's top lawyer in May 2008, just two years after being elected.
Richard Cordray, who now heads the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was elected to the attorney general post in November 2008 to serve the remainder of Dann's term.
The Court can either accept, reject or modify the recommended punishment after hearing arguments from both sides Tuesday.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.