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Ohio Attorney Suspended from Law Practice for Two Years after Misconduct

The Columbus Bar Association charged Attorney Derek Farmer with violating the Code of Professional Responsibility in 2004 for misconduct. The Supreme Court of Ohio's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline appointed an investigative panel and the court adopted the panel's recommendation to suspend Farmer's practice of law for two years, one of which was conditionally stayed.

In 2001 Farmer was retained by family members of Charles Martin. Martin received life plus 55 years for murder, robbery and rape. After releasing Martin's court appointed attorney, Farmer copied his appellate brief almost verbatim and submitted it as his own. Martin discharged Farmer in late 2002 after his sentence was affirmed, and Martin's mother requested all paperwork, a refund, and an accounting of fees for the $8,915 they had paid.

Convicted murderer Searcy Rutledge, Jr. was sentenced to 15 years for stabbing his girlfriend. Stella Moore, Rutledge's fiancé, retained Farmer with $1,000 and gave him an additional $4,000 after a power of attorney was drafted. Farmer withdrew from Rutledge's representation almost two years later after filing nothing further on his behalf. In both cases Farmer made impossible promises and failed to justify the fees he charged. Both clients filed grievances. The panel recommended sanctions, which the board adopted.

On appeal, the court affirmed Farmer's sanctions for serious acts of misconduct but was lenient because of testimony from a county judge, two U.S. District Judges, and advocacy and outreach project personnel regarding Farmer's credibility. The conditions of his one-year stay required no misconduct and a monitoring attorney to oversee all transactions. He was required to return all but $1,000 to the grieving parties and pay for the costs of the appellant's proceeding. See: Columbus Bar Association v. Farmer, 111 Ohio St.3d 137, 855 N.E.2d 462 (Ohio 2006), petition for reconsideration denied, 859 N.E.2d 560 (2006).

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Related legal case

Columbus Bar Association v. Farmer