On Wednesday, October 11, 2023, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an order disbarring attorney Ryan Curtis Cleveland. The order stemmed from two disciplinary matters before the court regarding Cleveland’s abandonment of eight clients.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Ryan Curtis Cleveland,” with case numbers S23Y0688 and S23Y0918.
The State Bar of Georgia’s State Disciplinary Board had filed two Notices of Discipline against Cleveland in 2023. The first notice in March 2023 arose from grievances filed in July and September 2022 regarding Cleveland’s representation of four clients. It sought a six-month suspension.
The second notice in May 2023 arose from grievances filed in February 2022, October 2022, and February 2023 involving four other clients. It sought Cleveland’s disbarment.
The court notes Cleveland received a formal letter of admonition in January 2022 for similar misconduct. He was also suspended in January 2023 for failing to respond to the investigation underlying the first disciplinary matter.
According to the filing, in one matter, Cleveland was engaged to represent a client in a divorce and custody case in August 2019. The client paid Cleveland $2,600 for his representation. However, Cleveland failed to take any action on the case. He did not file any documents, conduct discovery, communicate with the client, or inform him of an upcoming trial. Cleveland also did not return the unearned fees to the client.
In seven other matters, Cleveland had been appointed by a public defender’s office to represent seven indigent defendants who were incarcerated. However, he did not communicate with these incarcerated clients or respond to their families’ information requests. Cleveland also failed to file any substantive documents seeking a bond for the clients. In one of these cases, he misled the client and family about the status of the matter. Cleveland did not notify any of these clients or the courts when he became suspended from practice in January 2023.
The court found Cleveland’s actions violated numerous rules regarding competence, diligence, client communication, and withdrawal from representation. It determined disbarment was appropriate given the vulnerability of his clients, his substantial legal experience, prior discipline, and lack of mitigating factors.
By virtue of his default for failing to respond to the notices, Cleveland was deemed to have admitted the alleged facts. The court concluded his history of abandoning clients and failure to participate in disciplinary proceedings warranted disbarment consistent with previous cases.
As a result, the Supreme Court ordered Cleveland’s name be removed from the rolls of attorneys authorized to practice law in Georgia. He was reminded of his duties to wrap up client matters and notify clients and courts of his disbarment.
According to avvo.com, Mr. Cleveland is a criminal defense attorney in Bainbridge, Georgia. He obtained his law degree from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in 2005. He then gained admission to the Georgia Bar and was licensed to practice law in the state later that same year.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.