by Richard W. Millar, Jr.
I don’t know much about Ohio, and it previously has not been a fertile source of column materials. But, I guess I have not been paying sufficient attention.
Two recent professional misconduct cases have a couple of things in common: (1) they both involve Ohio lawyers; and (2) they both involve the lack of clothing.
In June 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a stayed two-year suspension for lawyer Scott Blauvelt due to, as the Grievance Committee put it, “chronically driving nude.”
Think about that for a minute. This isn’t a case of “Sorry, Officer, I am late for work and didn’t have time to get dressed.” According to the Findings of Fact, as far back as 2006, when he was employed by the prosecutor’s office for the City of Hamilton, security videos showed him walking around the office in the altogether after business hours. (Perhaps the phrase “in the altogether” is a misnomer as someone who walks or drives around in the altogether is clinically not all together, but I digress.)
In 2018, he was stopped twice for minor driving infractions leading to the discovery that he was unclothed and an ultimate conviction for public indecency.
In staying its two-year suspension order, the supreme court apparently bought the argument that this misbehavior did not relate to Mr. Blauvelt’s fitness to practice law.
In any event, one month into his suspension, he did it again.
The Bar’s Grievance Committee filed a motion for immediate interim remedial suspension, which the supreme court granted.
While Mr. Blauvelt was out driving around, another Ohio lawyer was, according to an ethics complaint, propositioning clients and prospective clients.
In October 2020, a complaint was filed with the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Ohio against one Richard L. Federle, Jr., charging him with six counts that might euphemistically be referred to as “unbecoming conduct” involving women clients or potential clients.
Mr. Federle did not have an office and worked out of his home, which is where he would often meet with his clients.
In one instance, he allegedly had sex with his client who was charged with child abuse and neglect, telling her that the sex was in lieu of legal fees.
In another, he allegedly told a woman that he might get to see her tattoos someday and that he would like to see her naked.
In still another count, he purportedly engaged in unwanted touching of a co-worker and asked if she looked good naked.
Additionally, a woman who had known Mr. Federle for years asked him if he would represent her in a divorce. She also said she needed $100 as the co-pay for a medical procedure. He allegedly told her that he would give her the $100 if she would clean his house.
A little later, he picked her up and drove her to his house so she could decide if she would want to clean it. He then upped the ante, so to speak, and told her he would represent her for free if she cleaned his house naked, an offer he allegedly repeated a few months later.
I have to say that I have heard of or read about a number of propositions, but “clean my house naked” is a new one, especially since most women I know dislike housework regardless of attire. At any rate, and perhaps predictably, it didn’t work in this instance as not only did this woman turn him down, she also filed a police report.
The state motto of Ohio is “With God all things are possible,” including, apparently, naked driving and naked housekeeping.
Richard W. Millar, Jr. is Of Counsel with the firm of Friedman Stroffe & Gerard in Irvine. He can be reached at email@example.com.