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Jim Tressel whistleblower argues before Supreme Court to keep law license

TNS Regional News • Apr 30, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Columbus lawyer Christopher Cicero on Tuesday argued before the Ohio Supreme Court that he should not be out — of the practice of law — after three strikes.

The court’s disciplinary arm is recommending that Cicero be permanently disbarred for a third offense involving a “pattern of dishonesty” after two prior one-year suspensions for misconduct.

The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline believes that Cicero should forfeit his law license for fixing a traffic ticket to reduce a speeding charge to a headlight violation to avoid losing his driver’s license.

Cicero used a traffic-court judge’s signed, but otherwise blank entry to amend the charge on his ticket and then falsely claimed that an assistant county prosecutor had approved the deal, the board contends.

He also was found to have lied, the board said, during the judge’s subsequent contempt-of-court inquiry into the conduct of Cicero, who was jailed for five days.

Cicero argues that while be should be punished, he should not permanently lose his ability to practice law since his misconduct did not affect any client.

“I am taking responsibility ... I wish I could go back,” Cicero told the justices this morning. “The past three years have been embarrassing, humiliating and painful.”

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor denounced Cicero’s “antics,” saying his third appearance before the court for professional misconduct “is a pretty disturbing pattern.”

She also felt Cicero was not fully acknowledging his wrongdoing. “So, it’s other people’s fault ... other people have contributed to the way you act.”

Donald Scheetz, assistant disciplinary counsel, told the court, “It’s the lying ... he’s not fit to practice our profession.”

In filings with the court, disciplinary officials wrote that Cicero’s “proclivity for dishonest conduct has been a constant theme throughout his career.”

“He has disrespected the judiciary, betrayed an unsuspecting prospective client and displayed a disturbing willingness to destroy peoples’ reputations, all to further his own selfish interests.”

Cicero’s law license was suspended for one year in 2012 after the court ruled he violated the confidences of a would-be client in the scandal that led to ouster of former Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel.

Cicero informed Tressel that some of his players were selling memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo parlor owner who had approached him for legal advice. Cicero did not seek to renew his law license late last year after the suspension expired.

His law license also was suspended for one year in 1997 for bragging that he was having a sexual affair with then-Judge Deborah P. O’Neill while she had appointed him to represent a criminal client in a case before her.


By Randy Ludlow - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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