MOUNT VERNON — In February, a three-count complaint was filed against local attorney Scott Pullins. Four more counts were added when an amended complaint was filed March 25. The complaint was filed with the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of The Supreme Court of Ohio.
Count 4 revolves around Pullins’ issuance in 2006 of subpoenas to ECR, then owner of knoxpages.com, under the suspended case of Pullins v. Collier. At the time, the case was being reviewed by the Court of Claims to determine jurisdiction.
Visiting Judge Thomas Curran issued an order for Pullins to appear and explain why the subpoenas were issued on a suspended case. Pullins then filed notices of dismissal for the case against Thom Collier and also to dismiss the case involving jurisdiction issues. Curran again filed a notice to appear, and Pullins filed a complaint against the court for trying to take action on a case that was dismissed.
Following denial of Pullins’ request, he filed an affidavit of disqualification against Curran, listing six allegations or facts Pullins believed to be true regarding Curran. It included his intention to call Curran as a witness at the hearing concerning his case.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer denied this request, stating “he found no basis for ordering the disqualification of Judge Curran and explained in detail with cita1tions why it was most unlikely that Judge Curran would be a necessary witness or subject to being called as a witness in the proceeding.”
Subpoenas were subsequently issued by Pullins for the hearing in which he was required to appear and explain his conduct. The assistant county prosecutor, attorney general and assistant attorney general, the Mount Vernon News and Curran were among those subpoenaed.
Count 4 alleges Pullins violated the four articles of the Code of Professional Responsibility and six articles of the Code of Professional Conduct as well as Gov. Bar R IV(2) which states, “it is the duty of the lawyer to maintain a respectful attitude toward the courts, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance. Judges and Justices, not being wholly free to defend themselves, are peculiarly entitled to receive the support of lawyers against unjust criticism and clamor.”
Count 5 dates back to March 2007, when Pullins served as defense council for Bradley L. Wilhelm and filed an affidavit of disqualification against Eyster. The complaint states seven reasons why Pullins said Eyster should be removed from the case. Moyer later denied the affidavit.
Count 5 alleges Pullins violated the same six articles of the Code of Professional Conduct and Gov R IV(2).
Count 6 states that in November 2008, Pullins amended a complaint in the Kathryn Elliott Pullins, et al. vs. Jeff Harmer et al. case, naming the Apple Valley Property Owners attorney, Donald W. Gregory, as a defendant, “accusing him of legal malpractice.” In January 2009, Gregory’s motion for dismissal was granted; Pullins’ claim against Gregory was also dismissed. On Jan. 28, Pullins appealed the Knox County Common Pleas Court decision.
On Feb. 17, under the same case number, Pullins issued a subpoena to Eyster’s wife under her official duty with her employer, Knox Community Hospital. Pullins requested, for a second time, that Eyster recuse himself from the case even though it was then in the hands of the Court of Appeals and out of Eyster’s jurisdiction.
The documents state Pullins was trying to link donors to Knox Community Hospital to parties in the case, and he needed to be able to prove to Moyer why the trial should be disqualified.
Count 7 states that in 2006, Pullins and his wife sought disqualification of Eyster in a case where both were defendants. Documents state the affidavit of disqualification contained false statements regarding Eyster.
“While I see no evidence in the record before me to suggest that Judge Eyster has shown any improper bias or prejudice in favor of the plaintiff, I conclude that he should not remain as the trial judge on this case,” Moyer said in response.
Counts 6 and 7 allege Pullins violated four articles of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Gov. Bar R IV(2).
The complaint, written by Michael E. Murman, special prosecutor to Disciplinary Counsel, states Pullins is chargeable with misconduct and should be disciplined.
The original charges in the complaint were:
•Count 1 alleges Pullins filed an affidavit of disqualification that “contained numerous accusations against Judge (Otho) Eyster, including items that were “biased and prejudiced against respondent.”
•Count 2 specified that Pullins made additional inappropriate remarks about Eyster regarding a guardian ad litem situation in the Cotton v. Cotton case.
•Count 3 stated Pullins filed “an affidavit purportedly executed by Kathy (Elliott Pullins) and notarized by respondent.” According to the charged filed by Murman, Pullins signed his wife’s name without revealing the fact in the affidavit.
Pullins filed an answer to the original three counts, asking for dismissal with prejudice. He also offered an alternate finding of dismissal without prejudice, because of the procedural defects in the complaint.
Throughout the 12 pages of his answer, Pullins identifies sections with which he agrees, and gives justification for sections he denies. In defending his argument for dismissal, Pullins claims the Disciplinary Council is not the appropriate entity to bring the complaint because “Judge Otho Eyster serves as chair of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline and at the time he filed this complaint with Disciplinary Council, he served as a member of the board.”
Other reasons stated for dismissal include:
•Litigation is still pending for matters related to Count 3.
•Charges violate Pullins constitutional right to notice.
•Complaint does not offer the opportunity to produce judgment “by a clear and convincing standard.”
•Pullins claims Eyster and Gregory are out to punish him.
•Pullins does not pose a danger to the public.
Pullins is requesting an oral hearing before the full hearing is conducted.
To close his argument, Pullins said, “Repondent has acknowledged the wrongful nature of his conduct. However, he strongly disputes that his wrongful conduct constitutes a violation of the disciplinary rules by a clear and convincing standard. … Respondent alleges that the only one that has been harmed by his wrongful conduct is himself.”
In response to the amended complaint, Pullins wrote the News, via e-mail, “These new charges are wholly without merit and in my opinion violate the procedural rules of the Disciplinary Counsel. In fact, some of the charges have already been investigated by Disciplinary Counsel and dismissed for lack of probable cause. On others the courts have found that I did not commit any wrongdoing. I have filed a motion to strike this amended complaint and believe that my request will be granted at some point in this process.”
The case will be heard before a three-person board comprised of members of the Board of Commissioners. The panel can include attorneys, active or retired judges, and public members. No local members will sit on this board, Murman told the News earlier this year.
The panel will recommend to the full board either agreement of some or all of the charges, or for dismissal. Appropriate sanctions will be filed with the Supreme Court, if charges are upheld. Penalties could range from probation to disbarment, depending on the ultimate finding, Murman said.