On Friday, February 2, 2024, the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Ohio recommended a one-year stayed suspension for attorney Jo Ellen Kaiser.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Jo Ellen Kaiser,” with case no. 2023-017.

The charges cited Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.15(c). 1.16(e) and 8.1(a), which states:

A lawyer shall deposit into a client trust account legal fees that have been paid in advance.

A lawyer who withdraws from employment shall refund promptly any part of the fee paid in advance that has not been earned.

A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of a material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter.

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The recommendation comes after Kaiser was found to have violated several rules of professional conduct during her representation of a client named Tina Preece in early 2022. Preece had retained Kaiser and paid her a $200 retainer fee as a down payment to handle a child custody case. However, Kaiser failed to take several important actions on Preece’s behalf. She did not deposit the retainer into her client’s trust account as required. Kaiser also did not obtain key contact information for Preece.

When Preece informed Kaiser of an upcoming court date in April, Kaiser did not attend the hearing or notify Preece that she would not be there. Preece had to attend the hearing without legal representation. Preece then went to Kaiser’s office to request the $200 retainer back since no work was performed. Kaiser refused at first but eventually refunded the money after consulting her own attorney.

In August 2022, Kaiser received a letter of inquiry from the disciplinary counsel regarding a grievance filed by Preece. Kaiser proceeded to deny ever representing Preece or receiving payment from her, which was later found to be untrue based on the evidence provided. Kaiser continued providing inaccurate statements in subsequent responses to the disciplinary counsel as well.

A hearing was held in November 2023 where evidence and testimony were presented. The panel found that Kaiser violated rules regarding diligence, handling client funds, refunding unearned fees, and prohibitions against making false statements in disciplinary matters. Aggravating factors included dishonest motives and failing to acknowledge wrongdoing. Some mitigation included her good reputation and lack of prior issues.

After considering precedent, the conduct, and relevant factors, the panel recommended a one-year suspension stayed in its entirety subject to no further misconduct and completing continuing legal education. The Board of Professional Conduct has voted to adopt this recommendation and referred the matter to the Ohio Supreme Court.

According to avvo.com, Ms. Kaiser is an attorney in Columbus, Ohio. She attended the Capital University Law School. She acquired her law license in Ohio in 2000.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.