An Ohio attorney charged with 71 ethics rule violations while representing 12 clients, who offered drugs to one client, solicited them from another, and failed to show for his temporary suspension hearing, was banned indefinitely by the state’s highest court.
Several violations involved misappropriation of client funds, which warrants disbarment, the Ohio Supreme Court noted in its Wednesday opinion.
But William Matthew Tinch suffers from a chemical dependency, and “we often temper this presumptive sanction when an attorney’s misconduct was motivated by addiction and the attorney has demonstrated a commitment to recovery,” the court said.
Tinch’s misconduct happened between 2015 and 2017, it said. His acts included failing to deposit unearned legal fees into his client trust account, misappropriating funds that he’d deposited into his client trust account, falsely telling one client’s father that he’d taken action when he had not, and not following another client’s wishes by filing a divorce complaint instead of seeking a dissolution.
In addition, the Middletown, Ohio, lawyer offered one client the anti-anxiety medication Xanax in the presence of the client’s children, and asked another client he knew had been prescribed medication after a car accident to provide him with “ten Percocet or Vicodin pills,” the court said.
In another instance, a judge became so concerned about Tinch’s well-being after observing him in chambers that he wouldn’t allow him to leave the courthouse until he’d secured a ride home or took a urine test, the high court said.
Tinch pleaded guilty to several crimes in 2017, including forgery and petty theft for accepting a check on his firm’s behalf and then forging the firm’s endorsement and misappropriating a portion of the fee, it said. But that court suspended the charges pending his completion of a substance-abuse treatment program, which Tinch did, the high court said.
While Tinch accepted full responsibility for his wrongdoing at his disciplinary hearing, the board found his testimony “was replete with excuses and justifications for his misconduct,” the high court said.
However, Tinch had no prior disciplinary history, presented “positive character evidence,” and has had penalties imposed for his criminal conduct, it said. The court noted that he entered into a three-year contract with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program in 2019 and has been sober since his arrest in July 2017.
To be eligible for reinstatement, Tinch will have to prove he’s maintained his sobriety throughout his suspension; complied with the terms of his OLAP contract, and have a qualified healthcare professional testify he’s capable of returning to the “competent, ethical, and professional practice of law,” the court concluded.
The case is Disciplinary Counsel v. Tinch, 2020 BL 187736, Ohio, No. 2018-1178, 5/20/20.