Ohio attorney suspended a second time on misconduct allegations

By Elizabeth Alt | Jul 9, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) – The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed a recommendation that Ohio attorney Debra Kay Horton be suspended for two years for allegedly violating professional code while working a minor’s personal injury case.

In a slip opinion dated June 26, the Supreme Court adopted the recommendations made by the Board of Professional Conduct to suspend Horton’s license after the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association filed a complaint in 2017 against Horton for allegedly violating professional conduct codes. 

Justices Maureen O’Connor, Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, Patrick F. Fischer and R. Patrick DeWine participated in the Supreme Court panel.

According to the opinion, Horton was hired in 2012 to represent a woman and her daughter who was allegedly injured in a car accident in a personal injury suit. 

The Bar Association alleged Horton “failed to make required disclosures to her client, to obtain the client’s written consent to or acknowledgment of certain circumstances affecting the representation, to formally withdraw from the case following a disagreement with the client, to promptly deliver funds that the client was entitled to receive, and to maintain required records regarding her client trust account,” the opinion states.

Horton had also been suspended for two years in 2010 for “settling clients’ personal-injury claims and endorsing the settlement checks without the clients’ authority and converting the settlement proceeds to her own use,” the opinion states.

The Board of Professional Conduct held a hearing and found that Horton had committed nine rule violations. The Board stated that although Horton admitted to multiple counts of misconduct, was cooperative, honest, and seemed willing to make changes, “her conduct since her 2010 suspension demonstrates that she has difficulty understanding or implementing acceptable law-office practices.”

The court stated that “Horton’s prior disciplinary record and her failure to make agreed changes to her client-trust-account management practices following relator’s 2015 overdraft investigation weigh in favor of a sanction.”

The Supreme Court agreed with the Board’s recommendations and ordered that Horton have her license suspended for two years, “with one year stayed on the condition that she engage in no further misconduct.” The court order also stipulated that Horton would need to submit proof for attending 12 hours of continuing legal education and be monitored for one year upon reinstatement.

Supreme Court of Ohio slip opinion number 2018-OHIO-2390

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