Thursday, April 13, 2000

Judge decries lawyers as 'fleas'

Attorney sent to jail for theft

BY Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Before he sent a lawyer to jail Wednesday, a Hamilton County judge gave the entire legal profession a tongue lashing.

        Common Pleas Judge Fred Cartolano complained that there are too many lawyers, too many law schools and too many opportunities for dishonest behavior.

        “There are only so many fleas that can feed on a dog,” the judge said. “We have lawyers coming out of the woodwork. There's not enough business for all the lawyers out there.”

        Judge Cartolano spoke before sentencing Kenneth Schachleiter to six months in jail for stealing about $91,000 from the estate of an elderly client.

        Prosecutors say Mr. Schachleiter, 58, of Colerain Township forged his client's signature on several checks and also took money by way of wire transfers.

        The judge said Mr. Schachleiter is a symptom of a problem that will continue to get worse as long as the number of lawyers continues to grow.

More lawyers disciplined
        He said the pressure to compete for a limited number of clients is driving some lawyers to bend or break the rules.

        State statistics suggest he's right. The number of lawyers disciplined by the Ohio Supreme Court has more than doubled in the past decade — from 52 in 1989 to 115 last year.

        The number of lawyers has increased only about 5 percent in the past 10 years, but the number of grievances filed against them has jumped more than 50 percent.

        Judge Cartolano said it's clear there is not enough work to go around. But he said law schools keep churning out lawyers anyway.

        In Mr. Schachleiter's case, the judge said, the lawyer got desperate for money and tapped into his client's accounts.

        “It's difficult to earn a living,” the judge told Mr. Schachleiter. “I'm not excusing you. I'm blaming the entire legal profession.”


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