On December 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued a conditionally stayed two-year suspension against attorney Mark Stewart Bennett following charges of misconduct involving a law clerk.
The case is entitled “Disciplinary Counsel v. Bennett” with case number 2023-Ohio-4752.
The charge cited a violation of Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct rule 8.4(h) which states:
Prohibiting other conduct that adversely reflects on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law, even though that conduct is not expressly prohibited by another rule
The complaint stemmed from inappropriate behavior directed towards a law intern identified as J.S., who worked at the Akron office of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.
J.S. alleged that Bennett engaged in a pattern of unwelcome advances, including attempts to look up her skirt, sexually inappropriate comments, and even an incident of unwanted physical contact. The allegations spanned Bennett’s tenure as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) at the Akron office from 2017 to 2019, raising concerns about the misuse of his authority.
The disciplinary board found Bennett’s actions in violation of the aforementioned rule reflecting adversely on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law. The board considered aggravating factors, such as Bennett’s dishonest or selfish motives and harm to a vulnerable victim. Mitigating factors included Bennett’s clean disciplinary record, voluntary counseling, and remorse for his actions.
The court carefully considered the unique circumstances surrounding Bennett’s inappropriate sexual communication with the clerk, differentiating it from cases involving attorneys and clients.
The Disposition states:
“Accordingly, Mark Stewart Bennett is hereby suspended from the practice of law in Ohio for two years, with the entire suspension stayed on the conditions that he commit no further misconduct, that he continue with his current course of mental-health counseling for the duration of his suspension, and that in the event his treating professional determines that his counseling is complete before he has fully served his suspension, he reports to the OLAP and comply with any OLAP recommendations”
According to Avvo, Mr. Bennett is an attorney in Westlake, Ohio. He acquired his law license in Ohio in 1998.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.