Ethics

suspended words

Image from Shutterstock.com.

An Ohio lawyer has been suspended for his over-the-top criticisms of litigation opponents and judicial decisions, including an assertion that a custody order was “the most absolutely insane decision” that he had encountered in almost 40 years.

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended lawyer Alan Yoder of Holland, Ohio, in an Oct. 6 opinion, Court News Ohio reports. Yoder was suspended from law practice for two years with the final six months conditionally stayed.

The ethics case stems from Yoder’s conduct in two matters—a custody dispute and a land contract case. Instead of expressing his disagreement on the merits of cases “in an ethical fashion,” Yoder “engaged in a deliberate pattern of false and inappropriate written communications regarding four people over several years,” the Ohio Supreme Court said.

In the custody matter, Yoder called a party a “very troubled woman” who was “obviously delusional” and “out of touch with reality,” the state supreme court said. He also reported the party, a nurse, to state nursing boards and sought an investigation of her fitness, without factual basis, according to the court. Yoder suggested that the nurse might be a danger to her patients and said she had “bizarre visions of paranoia.”

Yoder also accused a magistrate who ruled against him of lying, carrying on a “vendetta” against him, and showing “incredible arrogance.”

In a land contract matter, Yoder called an opposing lawyer a “complete idiot” and accused him of “churning” a case to increase legal fees. Yoder also said a letter by the opposing counsel was “idiotic” and “so stupid, I sent it back to you as I didn’t want it in my file.”

Yoder called an opposing party in the matter a “very ignorant, troubled woman,” a “liar” and “an idiot,” and said she was represented by a “mentally ill attorney advising an idiot.” A court ruled for the opposing party in the underlying case.

In the ethics case, Yoder said the Toledo Bar Association “will sink to any depth to trump up anything against me,” and the bar counsel “had absolutely no clue as to any of the facts he has alleged in his complaint.”

“Over the last eight years,” the Ohio Supreme Court said, “Yoder has been unable or unwilling to address his frustrations in the underlying cases—be they adverse court rulings, perceived criticism of his own conduct, or his own perceptions that others are performing incompetently—in a concise, rational and professional manner.”

Yoder had argued that the custody and land cases were wrongly decided, that all his statements about a magistrate and the parties were true, and that nearly everyone involved in those cases and the ethics case had shown bias against him.

“But the issue before us is not whether Yoder’s positions or the trial courts’ decisions in those cases were correct,” the Ohio Supreme Court said. “The issue is how Yoder conducted himself in contentious litigation and in the face of adverse rulings.”

Yoder cannot be reinstated to law practice unless he submits to an evaluation by the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program and complies with the recommendations.

Yoder told the ABA Journal that he has been practicing law for 43 years, and he has “a sparkling, rock-solid reputation in Toledo.” He has argued four cases in federal appeals courts, has handled major criminal trials, and at one time held the record for the largest jury verdict in Lucas County, Ohio.

Yoder says he has been criticized for having a bad attitude, not for making false assertions.

“Everything I have ever said about anybody is 100% absolutely true,” he says.

In his mind, Yoder says, he didn’t do anything wrong. “Did I probably overreact? Yes,” he says.

But Yoder says he was involved in some frustrating situations.

In the custody case, the magistrate ordered the removal of a 4-year-old girl and 9-month-old boy from their grandparents’ home because he didn’t like the grandparents’ demeanor at an emergency custody hearing, Yoder alleges. The grandparents had rescued the 4-year-old girl from a drug house, where she was living with her mother and scrounging for food in the garbage, Yoder says.

“I never ever said anything phony or said anything false about the magistrate,” Yoder says. “He pulled that precious little girl out of that home because he felt disrespect. And he ripped into me because he felt I didn’t get him the respect he deserved, either.”

The children were eventually returned to the grandparents. According to Yoder, the nurse, who had sought custody of the children, made false allegations about him and his client, including that they had covered up a rape 20 years ago. The accusations were “total craziness,” Yoder asserts.

Yoder also alleges that the opposing lawyer in the land purchase case was so incompetent that he didn’t know how to record a land contract and didn’t know that his client had to sign the contract in front of a notary.

Yoder says he took steps that protected the opposing lawyer’s clients, yet the lawyer wrongly accused him of wrongdoing. The opposing lawyer’s client also wrongly sent a letter to the bar association that contained incorrect legal assertions, Yoder says.

During his suspension, Yoder plans to travel, fix up some real estate that he owns, and possibly start raising championship quarter horses—something that he used to do. He says he is 69 years old and in perfect health. He is ready for new activities following the difficulties that began when he walked into the magistrate’s courtroom in September 2015.

“I’m going to be active in a lot of stuff,” he says. “This has been an absolute nightmare.”