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By: Jonathan M. Romvary
As part of every attorney’s ongoing duty of competence, each jurisdiction requires attorneys to attend Continuing Learning Education classes each year. The failure to attain the minimum required credit hours for substantive and ethical topics may result in fines, suspension or worse. Multi-jurisdictional attorneys have a further obligation to remain in compliance with each of their jurisdiction’s varying CLE obligations.
Recently, the general counsel for TBC Corp., the parent company of car parts companies Midas and National Tire & Battery, got a two-year stayed suspension from the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Ohio for practicing out-of-state despite prior suspensions from the state for failing to comply with his CLE obligations. The decision arises out of charges that the general counsel engaged in unauthorized practice in Florida while under suspension in Ohio.
In 2009, Marciak was hired as general counsel for Florida-based TBC Retail Group and later promoted to senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of TBC Corp. As General counsel, Marciak oversaw a team of in-house attorneys managing litigation and was otherwise in a legal position requiring him to have a current license to practice. Despite his legal work in Florida, Marciak did not obtain a certification as an “authorized house counsel” until December of 2015.
Marciak’s problems began when a former employee of TBC filed a bar complaint with the State of Florida in 2015 alleging Marciak was being engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, resulting in disciplinary action. The same employee thereafter filed a bar complaint with the State of Ohio alleging violation of their local rules, including the practice of law in another jurisdiction while suspended.
According to the court’s records, Marciak was suspended from the practice of law in Ohio in 2007 and sanctioned in 2009 and 2011 for failing to comply with his Ohio CLE credits. According to the Court Marciak failed to certify his compliance with Ohio’s biennial CLE compliance reporting for seven years. Further, Marciak only obtained the Florida certificate as authorized house counsel after the initial bar complaint was filed against him. Ultimately, the Ohio Supreme Court entered the two-year stayed suspension, saying that Marciak did not represent a future risk to the public and was attending and presenting at CLE classes. However the court warned that if Marciak failed to remain in full compliance, the stay would be immediately lifted and he would be required to serve the entire two-year suspension.
Despite receiving a stayed suspension, the lessons from Marciak’s natter is clear: every lawyer must familiarize themselves with the rules of the court and professional rules of conduct for the jurisdiction in which you practice and any other states in which you might practice law.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jonathan Romvary at [email protected].