by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF
Columbus — Former Attorney General Marc Dann, who resigned from office following a scandal and was later convicted on related charges, will lose his law license for six months, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Nov. 20.
In a unanimous decision, the state’s high court sided with a grievance board recommendation, noting that “two aggravating factors — Dann’s prior discipline and his position as the state’s attorney general at the time he committed his current misconduct — weigh in favor of a more severe sanction.”
The suspension takes effect immediately, though Dann has 10 days to file a motion for reconsideration, said Bret Crow, court spokesman.
A partner at Dann’s law firm issued a statement shortly after the decision was announced, saying the group was “saddened that the Supreme Court has chosen to suspend our partner” but respected the decision. Dann’s name will be removed from the firm’s name during the suspension.
“We have been upfront with all of our clients about the possibility of such a decision; disclosing the pending complaint in our client agreements and providing email, letter and blog updates on the matter,” Michael Harshman said. “We are confident in our ability to continue to successfully represent our clients.”
Dann resigned in May of 2008 after two women working in the attorney general’s office made sexual harassment allegations against one of his hand-picked managers.
The situation and subsequent investigation led to the firing of two of Dann’s aides and the forced resignation of a third. All three also were convicted on criminal charges.
Dann eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges — one for filing a false disclosure form and another for providing improper compensation to state employees, related to funds from his campaign and transition accounts that were used for an apartment Dann and two of his aides shared and other expenses.
Dann was fined $1,000, ordered to complete 500 hours of community service and barred from serving in public office for seven years. He also faced additional sanctions from state disciplinary board that decides penalties for attorneys for wrongdoing.
On the latter, Dann reached an initial agreement with a hearing panel to accept a six-month stayed suspension of his law license, meaning he could continue to practice law. But the disciplinary board instead recommended a six-month license suspension without a stay.
Dann appeared before the Ohio Supreme Court in April, hoping to convince justices that a stayed suspension was more appropriate, given that he had exceeded the number of required community service hours ordered by the court, helping families facing foreclosure.
Additionally, he argued “that his resignation from office, the seven-year disqualification from holding a public office, his acceptance of responsibility, his cooperation in the disciplinary proceedings and evidence of his good character and reputation should be given greater weight.”
But justices, in their ruling Nov. 20, said the state’s attorney general has a “heightened duty to the public … Dann’s criminal and ethical violations reflect poorly on his fitness to practice law and the legal profession as a whole but also cause incalculable harm to the public perception of the attorney general’s office and those government agencies, departments and institutions that the attorney general advises and represents.”
Justices added in their ruling, “Having considered Dann’s conduct, the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors, and the sanctions imposed for comparable misconduct, we find that the board properly weighed the aggravating and mitigating factors present in this case. Therefore, we overrule Dann’s objections, concur with the findings of the board, and agree that a six-month actual license suspension is the appropriate sanction for Dann’s misconduct.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.