Thursday, June 27, 2002

Lawyer fights suspension order

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — Michael S. Conese, a Butler County lawyer and former Hamilton municipal judge, has consistently said “he never kept money that wasn't his,” his lawyer,Mason Municipal Judge George M. Parker, argued Wednesday before the Ohio Supreme Court.

        Mr. Conese is fighting a state disciplinary board's recommendation that his law license be suspended for six months for violating four sections of the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

        The Supreme Court's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline earlier this year cited Mr. Conese for depositing $1,000 of a client's intended child-support payment into a checking account for his law firm instead of a trust account, then “gave his client no accounting of these funds.” The board also said two other violations “involved deceit and misrepresentation” and “conduct (that) was prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

        Mr. Parker asserted that Mr. Conese has always been consistent in his denial of wrongdoing. “To know Mr. Conese is to know that he is honest — and he is honest almost blatantly,” Mr. Parker told six Supreme Court justices Wednesday.

        But Kevin L. Williams, the court's assistant disciplinary counsel, said Mr. Conese gave three accounts of what happened in the 1997 case. Further, Mr. Williams said, Mr. Conese also failed to provide documentation showing what work he performed to deserve the $4,000 payment that his client's family had paid.

        Mr. Williams said the former client and an assistant county prosecutor both testified that Mr. Conese had agreed to put the $1,000 toward a child-support arrearage. As for the remaining $3,000, Mr. Parker argued that Mr. Conese had earned it all by working on his client's behalf.

        But Mr. Williams said there was no proof of how much work Mr. Conese had done to justify that amount. Mr. Williams said there was only one record indicating any time spent on the client's behalf: a lone phone message.

        A decision is expected within the next few months.


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