MOUNT VERNON — Phillip Lehmkuhl was served with a public reprimand this week following the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline’s finding.
Allegations of misconduct against Lehmkuhl, a local attorney, were filed in December and included violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct relating to eight counts including sections that state lawyers must provide “competent representation;” that the attorney will not defend a proceeding unless there is “a basis in law or fact for doing so that is not frivolous;” should not engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice or conduct that affects an attorney’s fitness to practice law; and that a lawyer should not refuse to testify in an investigation or hearing.
“It looks like the Ohio Supreme Court bit me, but it didn’t eat me,” Lehmkuhl told the News on Thursday. “Much to the chagrin of my enemies, it doesn’t look like I will be hung by the neck until dead on the public square. After 34 years of practice, I made a mistake. If it doesn’t happen again for 34 years, I will be dead before it does.”
Lehmkuhl said he has served his clients with the utmost professionalism and will continue to do so.
“For the past 15 years, I have been rated as being in the top 5 percent of all attorneys nationally in competence and ethical behavior by the Martindale Hubbell ratings service. My reputation is important to me. But, if I could achieve that rating once, I can do it again. Until then, like Old Man River, I will just keep rolling along.”
The allegations stem from a civil lawsuit Lehmkuhl filed against a Morrow County couple that alleged the Erbs, Joseph and Amanda, “made their remarks with careless disregard as to whether the were true and that they intended to defame” Lehmkuhl and his wife, Carolynne, and Arlene and Timothy McAfee. The McAfees were caring for horses owned by the Lehmkuhls. The McAfees were involved in a television interview that alleged the animals were not well cared for.
The suit should have listed Jill Erb instead of the couple’s daughter, Amanda.
Joseph Erb filed a grievance against Lehmkuhl on March 23, 2010, which was dismissed several weeks later because the case was still in litigation. According to Supreme Court documents, Lehmkuhl tried to make his dismissal of the civil case conditional on the fact that Erb would not refile his grievance once the civil case was closed. Erb refiled on April 20, 2011.
“Much to the chagrin of my enemies, it doesn’t look like I will be hung by the neck until dead on the public square. After 34 years of practice, I made a mistake. If it doesn’t happen again for 34 years, I will be dead before it does.”Phillip Lehmkuhl
Lehmkuhl denies he tried to make a deal with Erb, but did discuss the issue with opposing council.
“[Lehmkuhl] was advised that in the opinion of opposing counsel, such a demand would be unethical conduct,” Lehmkuhl stated in his answer. “Not wishing to run afoul of ethical rules, [Lehmkuhl] settled the case without any limitation on Joseph Erb’s vis-a-vis the Disciplinary Counsel.”
According to the complaint filed in December, Lehmkuhl refused to respond to two pieces of certified mail and failed to show up for a scheduled deposition, which was part of the board’s investigation into the allegations of misconduct.
Lehmkuhl argues that he did request, and receive, an extension to respond to the first letter, but does not maintain that he followed through with a response. He admits he did not respond to the second letter or the subpoena.
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