Ohio Supreme Court: Middletown lawyer who asked client for painkillers indefinitely suspended

Ohio Supreme Court: Middletown lawyer who asked client for painkillers indefinitely suspended
FOX19 NOW/file (Source: WALB)

MIDDLETOWN (FOX19) - The Ohio Supreme Court indefinitely suspended a Middletown attorney on Wednesday for ethical violations resulting from two criminal convictions and misusing client funds.

In their unanimous decision, the court gave William M. Tinch no credit for the time served under interim suspensions imposed in 2017 and 2018.

The court noted in their opinion their expected penalty for misappropriating client funds is disbarment, but the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct often recommends indefinite suspension “when an attorney’s conduct was motivated by addiction and the attorney has demonstrated a commitment to recovery," court records show.

Tinch has been undergoing substance abuse treatment since 2017, and part of his misconduct included asking a client to give him 10 prescription painkillers, court filings state. The client refused.

He gave us this statement regarding his suspension:

"I am thankful for the grace of God and for second chances. I’m thankful for the mercy of the Court and the Ohio Bar. The outcome is what we’ve all been praying for, which is a blessing. ‘Indefinite suspension’ is not a revocation. I will continue serving at Berachah Church, in Middletown, where I help lead a recovery program called Re:Generation for those suffering from strongholds like addiction. In two years I’ll be eligible for reinstatement. I have been and will continue to do the hard work to prove to everyone affected that I’m truly repentant, which what we, as Christians, are called to be. To God be the glory.”

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates allegations of ethical misconduct against attorneys and judges, charged him with 71 rule violations related to his criminal charges and neglecting the matters of 12 clients, according to court records.

The board has noted that Tinch testified at his disciplinary hearing that he accepted full responsibility for his wrongdoing, court records state.

The board stated Tinch also made several excuses and justifications for his misconduct, including blaming some of it on his law firm’s management. He admitted that his substance abuse began before he joined the law firm and continued after he left. He also acknowledged that his misconduct continued after leaving the firm.

Tinch attributed his chemical dependency to being “heavily over-prescribed” narcotics for arthritis and back pain, court records show. The board noted he completed a 28-day in-patient drug treatment program and 52-weeks of an aftercare program. The board found he has been sober since his July 2017 arrest, and that he entered into a three-year contract in 2019 with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP).

The opinion noted that Tinch has paid more than $14,000 in restitution to former clients and agreed to pay $1,000 in restitution to another. The court ordered Tinch to provide proof within 60 days that he paid the restitution.

To be reinstated, the court said Wednesday it will require Tinch to maintain his sobriety; comply with his OLAP contract; and provide proof from a qualified professional that he is capable of returning to the competent, ethical, and professional practice of law.

The board reported Tinch failed to cooperate with the disciplinary proceedings for more than two years, so the court said it considered Tinch’s failure to promptly respond to the charges as an admission to the violations.

In September 2017, the court said it put Tinch on an interim suspension receiving “substantial, credible evidence ” that he posed a threat of serious harm to the public.

The disciplinary counsel filed a complaint with the board in 2018. Tinch did not respond to the disciplinary counsel’s complaint, nor to an order from the court directing him to, so they issued an interim default suspension, court records show.

Tinch then responded to the second suspension, and the court said it directed the board to proceed with a disciplinary hearing to consider any evidence Tinch could provide to explain his conduct.

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