The law license of Toledo attorney Steven C. Hales has been suspended for two years, with the final 18 months of that term stayed on conditions, the Ohio Supreme Court said yesterday.
Mr. Hales, who began practicing law in 1999, was found to have engaged in professional misconduct "by taking over a client's medical malpractice case from another attorney despite his lack of competence to handle such litigation."
Additionally, Mr. Hales failed "to report his client's malpractice claim against him to his insurer, and [the] subsequent discharge of her $280,000 malpractice judgment against him through bankruptcy also violated the state attorney discipline rules."
According to the 15-page report released yesterday, Mr. Hales "acted out of self-interest, harmed a valuable client, and failed to pay restitution."
As part of the conditions of the 18-month stay, Mr. Hales must accept only cases he is competent to handle or get help from competent co-counsel. He must be monitored by an appointed attorney during the remaining 18 months of probation.
Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O'Donnell, and Robert R. Cupp agreed in the decision. Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton entered a separate opinion concurring with the term of suspension, but adding she would make the $280,000 malpractice judgment his client won against him part of his reinstatement. Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer entered a dissent, joined by Justices Maureen O'Connor and Judith Ann Lanzinger, saying he would have imposed a two-year suspension with 12 months stayed.