Lawyer Suspended for Threatening Shopper as Intimate Courting Ended

The Superb Courtroom of Ohio suspended a Medina County lawyer for 2 years based totally in section for threatening a consumer that he had a sexual courting with and employed as an “intern.”

In a unanimous according to curiam opinion, the Superb Courtroom dominated that Russell Buzzelli of Wadsworth violated 18 laws of skilled habits in instances involving 3 purchasers and his spouse.

Many of the violations have been associated with the intimate, trade, and prison courting Buzzelli had with a consumer and his antagonistic movements towards her. The Medina County Bar Affiliation filed a grievance in opposition to Buzzelli in 2021, charging the lawyer with 23 ethics rule violations. Buzzelli contested all however a kind of allegations. The Board of Skilled Habits discovered that Buzzelli dedicated 18 of the alleged rule violations, however pushed aside 5 others.  Buzzelli challenged the proposed sanction, however the Courtroom overruled his objections.

Lawyer Represents and Hires Female friend

Mary Beth Foster met with Buzzelli in July 2017 when she used to be in search of a divorce attorney. They started a sexual courting. Then, Foster then paid Buzzelli a $6,500 retainer to constitute her within the divorce and a misdemeanor home violence fee in opposition to her filed through her estranged husband.

At the time, Buzzelli used to be married. His spouse, Gail, labored as an administrative center assistant in Buzzelli’s legislation company. Within the fall of 2017, she had well being issues and used to be now not operating within the administrative center and spent greater than a month in a medical institution for scientific remedy. Buzzelli and his spouse each filed for divorce and separated.

Whilst separated from his spouse, Buzzelli lived with Foster whilst nonetheless representing her. Buzzelli additionally agreed to show Foster the abilities to paintings in a legislation administrative center. Buzzelli denied all over his disciplinary complaints that he paid Foster for her paintings and described her standing within the legislation company as very similar to an intern. Over time, Foster used to be concerned within the administrative center’s operations and had get right of entry to to Buzzelli’s shopper recordsdata and private checking account.

Alongside with representing Foster in her divorce and home violence case, Buzzelli filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Foster’s behalf in opposition to her estranged husband.

Violent Threats Made as Private, Industry Courting Ends

The courting between Buzzelli and Foster soured. In September 2018, Foster recorded a dialog at Buzzelli’s administrative center by which he states that he has killed a human being, and isn’t “happy with that.”

He went on to mention, “However there’s something that I’ve a capability to do and to be, alright, is a killer. Now, something you don’t have and also you communicate large and dangerous, is you don’t have that capability,” Buzzelli advised Foster. “All proper? You need to rat me out and inform other folks about it, you pass proper forward.”

Buzzelli advised Foster to forestall coming to the administrative center and altered the door locks as a result of Foster would now not go back the important thing. Buzzelli two times reported break-ins to the police, suspecting both Foster or every other former shopper have been accountable.

A month after finishing the non-public courting, Foster’s divorce become ultimate in October 2018. She then recommended Buzzelli to take no additional motion on any of her instances. Even though Buzzelli advised Foster he would withdraw from her instances, he didn’t officially withdraw from the misdemeanor prison case till two months later.

Buzzelli additionally advised Foster he would voluntarily push aside the federal lawsuit he had filed for her. However with out Foster’s wisdom or consent, Buzzelli answered to a counterclaim filed within the case through Foster’s ex-husband. Buzzelli falsely claimed that Foster filed and signed the report.

The Board of Skilled Habits discovered Buzzelli’s recorded statements to Foster constituted the misdemeanor crime of “menacing” and that he supposed to intimidate and threaten her. The board dominated that Buzzelli dedicated an unlawful act “so egregious” that it adversely displays on his health to observe legislation. As well as, Buzzelli’s submitting of a federal court docket report in Foster’s title violated the foundations in opposition to creating a false observation to a court docket and attractive in habits involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The board additionally discovered Buzzelli created a struggle of pastime in his illustration of Foster, and he failed to verify she understood the pro duties of operating in a legislation administrative center underneath his supervision.

Spouse’s Go back to Workplace Sparks Threats, Stalking Allegations

In the autumn of 2018, Buzzelli reconciled along with his spouse and moved again into the circle of relatives house. His spouse quickly started resuming gentle administrative center paintings all over her convalescence. Gail required supervision for her scientific restoration, and Buzzelli made a spot in his administrative center for Gail to recover as he labored.

In March 2019, the Buzzellis went to Medina County Not unusual Pleas Courtroom to document a civil-stalking coverage order in opposition to Foster. Within the submitting, Gail alleged Foster had stalked her at house and within the administrative center. She claimed Foster additionally broke into the administrative center, tampered along with her laptop recordsdata, stole paperwork and belongings, and broken belongings. The submitting known Buzzelli as his spouse’s attorney. He represented his spouse at the listening to to realize the transient coverage order, which used to be issued with out Foster being provide.

In April 2019, Gail referred to as Wadsworth police when she noticed Foster within the parking lot of a retail retailer around the boulevard from the legislation administrative center. Foster used to be arrested for violating the security order and jailed that very same day.

A Justice of the Peace performed a listening to to resolve whether or not to grant an enduring coverage order. Buzzelli, representing his spouse, cross-examined Foster and requested her if she had hacked her ex-husband’s e-mail all over the divorce. The Justice of the Peace then requested if Buzzelli knew concerning the hacking declare as a result of he represented Foster all over the divorce. He answered that he did. The Justice of the Peace didn’t permit the query, and in the long run denied the coverage order.

The board discovered Buzzelli violated moral laws through the usage of knowledge he got from Foster when representing her to downside Foster in a prison continuing. The board rejected Buzzelli’s declare that his try to use the tips used to be permissible.

Further Fees Result in Sanction

Alongside with the misconduct Buzzelli dedicated within the Foster issues, the board discovered violations dedicated through Buzzelli when representing two different ladies. Marlene Tramonte paid Buzzelli a $15,000 retainer to terminate her marriage of extra than 40 years. Tramonte fired Buzzelli all over the illustration, wondering the quantity of labor he used to be if truth be told devoting to her case.

The board discovered that Buzzelli charged for 13.75 hours of labor he didn’t carry out and charged Tramonte for telephone meetings that he advised her could be loose. The Courtroom ordered Buzzelli to pay her $7,860 in restitution.

The board additionally discovered Buzzelli didn’t diligently constitute every other shopper he used to be appointed to constitute. His loss of paintings resulted in the lady’s attraction being pushed aside and required a public defender to re-open the case.

Along with the suspension and restitution, the Courtroom ordered Buzzelli to finish six hours of continuous prison training excited about sexual harassment and worker control, and to pay the prices of the disciplinary complaints.

2021-1233. Medina Cty. Bar Assn. v. Buzzelli, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-2470.

Lawyer Suspended for Threatening Shopper as Intimate Courting Ended View oral argument video of this situation.

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