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Ohio Attorney Suspended for Protective Order, Trust Account Abuse

Feb. 25, 2020, 5:28 PM

An Ohio attorney who was jailed for violating a protective order several times, tested positive for drug use, and was found to have misappropriated client funds was suspended for two years by the state supreme court.

But it stayed the second year of the suspension provided that Anthony Michael Piazza got assessed by the state lawyers assistance program and stayed out of trouble.

“Piazza needs time away from the practice of law to appreciate the importance of the Rules of Professional Conduct and to ensure that he will incorporate the appropriate procedures into his practice,” the Ohio Supreme Court’s Tuesday opinion said.

And the conditions “should help to ensure that he returns to the practice of law only after treatment for his addiction,” the court said.

In 2017, Piazza, of Olmsted Falls, Ohio, was arrested for assault and disorderly conduct and ordered to stay away from the female victim, it said. In 2018, he pleaded no contest to the protection-order violation after going to her house and lying to police about it, among other violations, but continued to contact the victim, the court said.

He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, but was permitted to serve the time under house arrest. He failed random drug and alcohol testing, and admitted to using cocaine at least 20 times in 2018. He was sentenced to another two days in jail and another seven days in 2019 for failing another drug test.

Piazza’s acts constitute dishonesty; show that he knowingly disobeyed the orders of a tribunal; and reflect adversely on Piazza’s fitness to practice law, the court said.

Furthermore, he misappropriated and commingled funds from his client trust account on numerous occasions over the past several years despite agreeing to comply with trust account rules after an earlier investigation of trust account irregularities, it said.

The court found that mitigating factors included no prior discipline in Piazza’s 42-year legal career and that he cooperated in the disciplinary process.

But his repeated pattern of misbehavior warrants the suspension, the court said.

The case is Disciplinary Counsel v. Piazza, 2020 BL 66917, Ohio, No. 2019-1369, 2/25/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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