(Feb. 24, 2010) The Supreme Court of Ohio today suspended the law license of Cleveland attorney Debbie Kay Horton for two years, with the second year of that term stayed on conditions, for settling a personal injury lawsuit without the knowledge or permission of her clients, forging the clients’ signatures on the settlement checks and converting the proceeds of $3,800 to her own use.
In a 7-0 per curiam opinion, the Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Horton’s actions violated, among others, the state attorney discipline rules that prohibit conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that reflects adversely on an attorney’s fitness to practice.
After reading the opinion in the disciplinary case, I can also tell you that this attorney charged her clients $1,300 for her services relating to the above-referenced case.
So, let me get this straight. This attorney (1) charged and accepted fees to handle a case; (2) settled the case for $3,800 without her client's permission; (3) forged her clients' signatures on the settlement agreement to dispose the case; and (4) kept the money.
Yet, forgery and stealing couldn't get her disbarred.
In her defense, she didn't do anything to a dolphin.