On Wednesday, November 8, 2023, the Supreme Court of Ohio suspended the license of attorney Theodore Ferris Scribner for two years, with 18 months stayed, due to misconduct involving client funds and trust accounts.

The case is entitled “Disciplinary Counsel v. Theodore Ferris Scribner,” with case no. 2023-0473.

The charges cited Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct (c)(1), 1.15(a)(1)(a)(2), 1.15(a)(3)(a)(5), 1.15(b), 1.15(c), 1.15(d), and 8.4(c) which states:

Requiring a lawyer to set forth a contingent fee agreement in writing signed by both the client and the lawyer.

Requiring a lawyer to maintain a copy of any fee agreement with a client.

Requiring a lawyer to maintain a record for each client that sets forth the name of the client; the date, amount, and source of all funds received on behalf of the client; and the current balance for each client.

Requiring a lawyer to maintain a record for the lawyer’s client trust account, setting forth the name of the account; the date, amount, and client affected by each credit and debit; and the balance in the account.

Requiring a lawyer to perform and retain a monthly reconciliation of the funds held in the lawyer’s client trust account.

Permitting a lawyer to deposit his or her own funds into a client’s trust account for the sole purpose of paying or obtaining a waiver of bank service charges.

Requiring a lawyer to deposit advance legal fees and expenses into a client trust account, to be withdrawn by the lawyer only as fees are earned or expenses incurred.

Requiring a lawyer to promptly deliver funds or other property that the client is entitled to receive.

Prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The suspension resulted from a complaint filed by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Counsel in August 2022, alleging that Scribner had mismanaged and misappropriated funds belonging to nine separate clients.

Scribner is a sole practitioner who represented nine personal injury clients between 2016 and 2020. He entered into an unwritten contingent fee agreement with one of the clients and failed to maintain copies of the written and signed contingent fee agreements for five others. Scribner also failed to maintain monthly reconciliations of his client trust account and withdrew over $73,000 in cash from the account, which made it impossible to connect the withdrawals to particular clients.

The court found that Scribner misappropriated portions of the client’s funds for his personal or business purposes or to reimburse funds that he had previously misappropriated from other clients. He also failed to disburse the clients’ settlement proceeds in accordance with the accounting set forth in their closing statements. For example, he agreed to hold $454 of Corry Sage’s settlement proceeds to pay an ambulance bill but instead misappropriated the funds for his own purposes. He also misappropriated $785 from a client, Kimberly St. Clair, and $256.38 from Stacy Rich, despite the fact that his closing statements showed that those funds were intended to pay various case-related expenses on behalf of those clients.

Scribner also failed to pay medical bills and refund the remaining money to another client, Katrina Karnes, instead misappropriating the full $12,500 by making cash withdrawals and reimbursing other clients. He also irregularities in his payment of his fees to himself, including withdrawing $4,000 from his client trust account as an advance on his fee before settling the case, and disbursing $6,000 to himself at the time of settlement, instead of timely paying a $1,500 medical bill and disbursing the remaining $2,925 of the settlement proceeds to Yalung.

In addition, Scribner’s closing statement showed that he was entitled to a fee of $25,609.75, but he disbursed just $20,000 to himself. There is no record to establish that he ever disbursed the remaining $5,609.75 of his fee.

The court’s decision came after a thorough review of the record, which included stipulations of fact, misconduct, and aggravating and mitigating factors. A three-member panel of the Board of Professional Conduct conducted a hearing at which it heard testimony from Scribner and three character witnesses. The panel issued a report finding that Scribner committed the charged misconduct and recommending that he be suspended from the practice of law for two years with 18 months stayed. The board adopted the panel’s findings of fact and misconduct and recommended sanction. The Supreme Court of Ohio then adopted the board’s recommendation and decided to suspend Scribner from the practice of law.

The Disposition states:

“Accordingly, Theodore Ferris Scribner is suspended from the practice of law in Ohio for two years with 18 months stayed on the condition that he commit no further misconduct. If Scribner fails to comply with the condition of the stay, the stay will be lifted and he will serve the full two-year suspension. In addition to the requirements of Gov.Bar R. V(24), Scribner’s reinstatement to the practice of law shall be conditioned on proof of compliance with his August 9, 2022, OLAP contract and any extension thereof and completion of three hours of CLE focused on the client – trust – account management, in addition to the hours required by Gov.Bar R. X.”

According to avvo.com, Mr. Scribner is an environmental and natural resources attorney in Akron, Ohio. He attended the University of Akron, C. Blake McDowell Law Center. H acquired his law license in Ohio in 2003.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.