Sunday, July 09, 2017

State Client Protection Fund Steps In After Thieving Lawyer's Suicide To Cough Up Over $200K Collectively To 35 Theft Victims Over Whom He Was Court-Appointed Legal Guardian

In Columbus, Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reports:
  • Financial relief is finally coming for some of the victims of a former Columbus attorney who stole money from his court-appointed wards.

    More than $200,000 is being awarded collectively to 35 former wards of Paul S. Kormanik, who was the subject of a five-part Dispatch investigative series that prompted changes in the state’s guardianship system. If dispersed evenly, each former ward would receive a touch over $5,700.

    The money will be paid out of the Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection, which was established in 1985 to protect clients from potentially exploitative practices of attorneys.(1) All active attorneys pay into the fund through various fees associated with the profession. Previously, two claims brought forward by Kormanik wards were reimbursed a total of $28,057.11 by the board.

    “These situations can chip away at the public’s faith in the fiduciary responsibilities that wards entrust to their guardians, some of whom are attorneys,” said Janet Green Marbley, administrator of the fund. “It’s important for the public to understand that the fund can help rebuild that trust by reimbursing wards affected by the dishonest conduct of an attorney.”

    The Columbus Bar Association brought 15 charges of misconduct against Kormanik, who forfeited his law license. Over the years he amassed about 400 probate court-appointed wards.

    In court proceedings, Kormanik pleaded guilty to four counts of theft from an elderly or disabled person, one count of theft and five counts of tampering with records.

    Kormanik was found dead in 2015 of apparent suicide. He was set to appear in court later that day to face contempt of court charges after failing to pay back one of his wards.

    The Dispatch series invoked sweeping changes in the state’s guardianship system. The “Unguarded” series caused probate judges who award guardianship, state legislators and the Ohio Supreme Court to enact reforms.

    Additionally, Attorney General Mike DeWine issued guidelines in a handbook that is required to be available to every guardian in Ohio.

    A guardian is appointed by a probate court to manage care for the affairs of a minor or incompetent adult. Being designated a guardian or ward is “one of the most restrictive protective services available under Ohio law,” according to DeWine’s handbook.
Source: Former wards, victims of attorney, awarded total of $200,000.
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(1) For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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