A Columbus lawyer battling mental-health problems and alcoholism lost his license to practice law yesterday following several incidents of professional misconduct.
The Ohio Supreme Court banned Sterling Everard Gill II from the legal profession for two years, with the second year of his suspension waived if he stays sober and manages his bipolar disorder.
In a 4-3 decision, the court rejected a recommendation from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Gill be suspended indefinitely.
Gill’s misconduct stemmed from nine grievances, a criminal conviction and his failure to respond to inquiries from the Columbus Bar Association, which filed the charges against him. An investigation showed that Gill failed to inform clients about his fees and lack of professional-malpractice insurance. He also never set up a client trust fund to hold client fees as required.
In addition, two judges and a court administrator filed complaints against Gill for appearing hours late to court, failing to file a notice of appeal and merit briefs in a case, and being under the influence of alcohol at a court hearing. Gill also pleaded guilty in 2010 to reckless operation of a motor vehicle.
Gill’s attorney, Kenneth R. Donchatz, stressed during an earlier hearing before the court that no money was stolen from any client nor was any case defaulted.
The court’s majority — Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy and William M. O’Neill — was swayed by Gill’s personal struggles and a psychologist’s conclusion that Gill should be able to return to the practice of law if he takes his recommended medication, continues psychotherapy and continues participating in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Judith Ann Lanzinger and Judith L. French dissented, stating they preferred an indefinite suspension as recommended by the board.
By Catherine Candisky - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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