Ohio Supreme Court Suspends Lawyer Indefinitely For Dishonesty In Several Matters

CLEVELAND METROPOLITAN BAR ASSOCIATION v. DONCHATZ, 2017 Ohio 2793 – Ohio: Supreme Court 2017 – Google Scholar:

This case is worth reading because it is a summary of all the ways a lawyer can get himself in serious trouble. There were four allegations of misconduct, and all were found proven.



The first allegation was that a creditor obtained a judgment against the lawyer. Rather than paying the judgment, the lawyer forged and filed a satisfaction of judgment with the Court. The Ohio Supreme Court found:


¶ 7} Thereafter, Davey Tree’s counsel informed Donchatz that a balance remained due and asked him to withdraw the satisfaction of judgment. Donchatz confirmed that the judgment remained unpaid, but he did not withdraw his filing. The court later granted Davey Tree’s motion to vacate the satisfaction and reinstated the judgment.{¶ 8} In October 2013, more than three years after the default judgment was entered and nearly 18 months after it was reinstated, Donchatz moved the court to reconsider the default judgment. Determining that the motion was frivolous and without merit, the court denied it and awarded sanctions to Davey Tree. But Donchatz did not pay the judgment or sanctions until April 15, 2014.{¶ 9} Based on this conduct, the board found that Donchatz violated Prof.Cond.R 3.1 (prohibiting a lawyer from bringing or defending a proceeding that is unsupported by law or lacks a good-faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law), 3.3(a)(1) (prohibiting a lawyer from knowingly making a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal), 3.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal), 8.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(d) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice). We adopt these findings of fact and misconduct.


The second matter involved the lawyer’s business transaction with his client, in which he borrowed $100,000 from a client.

The findings:

{¶ 12} At the hearing, Donchatz admitted that he accepted the $100,000 check from Cracknell without providing the written notices required by Prof.Cond.R. 1.8(a) (prohibiting a lawyer from entering into a business transaction with a client unless the client is advised in writing of the desirability of obtaining independent legal counsel and the terms of the transaction are fair, reasonable, and fully disclosed in a writing signed by the client) and therefore violated the rule the moment he took the loan. In addition to finding a violation of that rule, the board found that he violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.5(b) (requiring an attorney to communicate the basis or rate of the fee and expenses within a reasonable time after commencing the representation, preferably in writing). Donchatz does not dispute these findings of fact or misconduct, and after independently reviewing the record, we adopt them.


The third allegation of wrongdoing concerned a disciplinary matter in which the lawyer wrongfully accused the attorney prosecuting the disciplinary action of wrongfully hiding evidence. Because the allegations were baseless, the court concluded that the attorney had violated several rules. It explained:

{¶ 16} The board found that by filing the motion in limine that contained false statements and misrepresentations, Donchatz violated Prof.Cond.R 3.1, 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(c), 8.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(d)


In the fourth matter, the attorney became involved in a fee dispute with a client. He engaged in mediation with the client but prepared a purported stipulation of judgment, when the other party had not agreed to any such stipulation.

The finding: {¶ 30} Before the board, Donchatz argued that the “stipulated entry and consent judgment” was proper under Loc.R. 25.01 of the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County, General Division. As explained below, however, the board determined that Loc.R. 25.01 did not apply in this case. And, based on the foregoing, the board found that by filing the “stipulated entry and consent judgment,” Donchatz violated Prof.Cond.R. 3.1, 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(c), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).


The court suspended the lawyer indefinitely. The court relied upon what it found to be significant dishonesty in three of the four matters.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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