Evan Thomas Byron, a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio, is facing allegations of professional misconduct before the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Ohio. The complaint, filed by the Disciplinary Counsel on September 26, 2023, details multiple instances of ethical violations.
According to the complaint Byron allegedly violated the following Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct:
Prof.Cond.R. 3.3(a)(1) – Making false statements of fact or law to a tribunal or failing to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer.
Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(d) – Engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(a) – Failing to hold property of clients that is in a lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s own property.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(b) – Depositing the lawyer’s own funds in a client trust account for the sole purpose of paying or obtaining a waiver of bank service charges on that account, but only in an amount necessary for that purpose.
Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(c) – Failing to deposit legal fees and expenses that have been paid in advance into a client trust account, to be withdrawn by the lawyer only as fees are earned or expenses incurred.
The complaint alleges that Byron committed various acts of professional misconduct. The case involves allegations of false statements made to a tribunal and violations related to handling client funds.
Count I: Respondent’s False Statements to a Tribunal
The case centers around Evan Byron’s conduct in a lawsuit involving Helga Semaj. Semaj and Byron initially met through the dating application “Hinge” in early September 2021, and they later engaged in an intimate dating relationship. While this relationship ended towards the end of November 2021, they rekindled their romantic involvement in April-May 2022.
Trouble arose when Semaj hired Byron as her attorney in various legal matters, including a lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend, Semaj v. Savelli. Byron represented Semaj from April 25, 2022, through December 20, 2022, but he failed to disclose the ongoing romantic relationship to the court, misleading the tribunal about its nature.
In response to a motion to disqualify him based on the romantic relationship, Byron falsely stated in court documents that the relationship had ended and would not affect his representation of Semaj. Judge Wanda Jones accepted these false statements, not knowing about the ongoing romance.
It wasn’t until a deposition on September 15, 2022, in the divorce case that Byron admitted to his relationship with Semaj and the falseness of his previous statements to the court. This revelation prompted Judge Jones to file a grievance against Byron with the disciplinary council.
Count II: IOLTA Violations
The second count against Evan Byron involves violations related to the handling of client funds. Byron and Semaj agreed to a $15,000 retainer for his legal services, but Byron failed to properly deposit these funds into his Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA). Instead, he deposited the funds into his personal business account, commingling client and personal funds.
When Semaj’s check was later rejected by the bank due to insufficient funds, Byron paid himself $10,000 from Semaj’s retainer without ensuring the funds were available. This resulted in a withdrawal from other unsuspecting clients’ funds.
As of August 17, 2023, $5,000 of Semaj’s retainer remains in Byron’s IOLTA, despite invoices indicating that Semaj owes him over $35,000 for legal services.
The Disciplinary Counsel recommends a determination that Byron has breached the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and calls for appropriate disciplinary measures.
According to Avvo, Mr. Byron is a litigation attorney in Beachwood, Ohio. He received his J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He acquired his law license in Ohio in 2006. At the time of writing, Byron is listed as a partner at Kaufman, Drozdowski & Grendell.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.