On Thursday, November 30, 2023, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued an order for Columbus attorney Gregory Darwin Port to show cause why he should not receive an interim suspension from practicing law. This comes after Port failed to respond to formal ethics charges filed by the Disciplinary Counsel.

The case is entitled “Disciplinary Counsel v. Gregory Darwin Port,” with case no. 2023-1512.

The charges cited Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a), 3.3(a)(1), 8.4(c)(d)(h), 1.7(a)(2), 1.8(a), 1.5, 1.16(e) which states:

A lawyer shall hold property of clients or third persons that is in a lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s property.

Making a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer.

Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

Engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.

There is a substantial risk that the lawyer’s ability to consider, recommend, or carry out an appropriate course of action for that client will be materially limited by the lawyer’s own personal interests.

Enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client.

A lawyer who withdraws from employment shall refund promptly any part of a fee that has not been earned.

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

On October 26, 2023, the Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint against Attorney Port, alleging multiple counts of professional misconduct involving misappropriation of client funds, falsifying records, and overcharging fees.

The complaint outlines four counts of alleged rule violations against Port. Count One focuses on Port’s handling of the Estate of Jean VanPelt, for which he served as administrator starting in 2018.

According to the complaint, Port began improperly distributing funds from VanPelt’s estate bank accounts to himself and to another estate he administered starting in mid-2019. Over the next two years, Port allegedly wrote checks and transferred over $267,000 of VanPelt’s funds to his personal and business accounts as well as the unrelated estate.

When asked to provide estate bank records to beneficiaries in late 2020, Port is accused of falsifying Huntington Bank statements to conceal the distributions. He later admitted to altering the records using a PDF editing program when confronted.

Count Two centers on Port’s administration of the Estate of Stephen Renz from 2019-2020. The complaint alleges Port engaged in multiple conflicts of interest by having companies owned by himself and his wife purchase estate property at well below market value, then flipping it for a large profit. It also says Port overcharged the estate for cleanup work performed by a company run by his wife.

The remaining counts accuse Port of improperly taking all remaining funds from the Estate of Anne Sink after submitting a clearly excessive $14,000 invoice. It also alleges Port failed to accomplish the stated goals for which he charged a $9,400 flat fee to the Estate of Esther Imhoff.

After Port failed to respond to these allegations, the Board of Professional Conduct certified his default to the Supreme Court in late November 2023. This prompted the high court’s issuance of the order on November 30, 2023, directing Port to show cause for why an interim suspension should not be imposed while the ethics case continues.

The Supreme Court order notes Port could be immediately suspended from practicing law if he does not sufficiently justify why this shouldn’t occur, given his default on the serious professional misconduct charges outlined in the complaint.

The order to show cause states:

“On consideration thereof, it is ordered by the court that the parties show cause why an interim default suspension should not be imposed by the court and the disciplinary order so entered.”

According to avvo.com, Mr. Port is an estate planning attorney in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Capital University Law School in 1990 and obtained his law license in Ohio the same year.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.