Login | November 28, 2022

Canton attorney suspended for neglecting clients’ divorce cases

DAN TREVAS
Supreme Court
Public Information Office

Published: September 26, 2022

The Supreme Court of Ohio recently suspended a Canton lawyer for two years, with one year stayed, for neglecting two client matters and lying to the clients for months about the status of their cases.
In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court suspended Seth Arkow of Canton who failed to secure documentation two women needed to finalize divorces, and then attempted to mislead the women and disciplinary investigators about his actions. This is Arkow’s second suspension. In 2004, he received a fully stayed one-year suspension from the Court also for neglecting a client matter.
Based on the more recent grievances submitted against Arkow by the two clients, the Stark County Bar Association filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct in December 2021, alleging several professional conduct violations.
Lawyer Blames Pandemic for Documentation Delay
In March 2019, Karen Hall hired Arkow to represent her in a divorce. In November 2019, she paid him $400 to obtain a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to divide her former husband’s retirement account. The fee included the expense to hire an expert firm, QDRO Group, to prepare that order.
About five months later, in April 2020, Arkow sent Hall an email stating he had not heard anything about the status of her QDRO and speculating that the work may have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Arkow had never submitted Hall’s information to the QDRO Group.
Hall repeatedly inquired about the status of her case for months. Arkow falsely responded that he was checking on the status of the QDRO every few weeks. When Hall asked for a copy of the documents he furnished to the QDRO Group, Arkow did not respond.
In October 2020, Hall told Arkow she was filing a grievance against him with the county bar association. In response, Arkow sent Hall an email stating he submitted the documents to the QDRO Group. Shortly after, he wrote a $400 check to the company along with a letter about Hall’s matter. He backdated the documents to make them appear as if he wrote them a year earlier. He then sent Hall copies of the documents.
When the bar association inquired about Hall’s complaint, Arkow falsely responded that he had timely submitted the payment and documents to the QDRO Group. A year later, in October 2021, disciplinary investigators deposed Arkow. Before questioning began, Arkow admitted he did not send Hall’s information in a timely manner and lied to her and the bar association about it. Hall paid another attorney $300 to complete the divorce matter, and Arkow reimbursed her for the costs of those services.
The parties stipulated and the board agreed that Arkow violated several rules, including those that require an attorney to act with reasonable diligence when representing a client and to keep a client informed about the status of the case. He also knowingly made a false statement in connection with a disciplinary matter and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
Lawyer Repeats Misconduct
In March 2020, Kayla Kimble paid Arkow $400 to finalize a QDRO, with the QDRO Group to perform the services. But Arkow never submitted Kimble’s documentation to the QDRO Group. Kimble repeatedly inquired about the status of the QDRO for eight months and received one false response from Arkow that the company was “just catching up” and that he would have the completed work for her in a week.
Kimble filed a grievance in June 2021 and hired another lawyer to finish the QDRO. Arkow refunded Kimble her $400 payment. The board found Arkow committed several of the same violations representing Kimble as he did with Hall.
Board Considered Propose Sanction
The board noted that Arkow’s 2004 suspension involved the same types of misconduct – neglect of a client’s QDRO and misrepresentation to the client and disciplinary investigators about his neglect. At his disciplinary hearing, Arkow testified that as a young lawyer, he did not take the 2004 disciplinary action as seriously as he should have. He said he has taken action in this case to change his behavior, including using office-management software to stay organized and seeing a therapist to address his procrastination issues.
His therapist reported that Arkow was intent on changing his thinking and behavior and that he could practice law in a “honest and ethical manner.” However, Arkow did not seek to establish that a mental disorder contributed to his misconduct.
The Court adopted the board’s recommendation that Arkow be suspended for two years with one year stayed on the conditions that he not commit further misconduct and that he engage in regular mental-health treatment as recommended by his therapist or another qualified healthcare professional. If Arkow seeks reinstatement, he must complete eight hours of continuing legal education with a focus on QDROs, ethics, and law-office management. He must also receive an opinion from his therapist or another healthcare professional that he can return to the competent, ethical, and professional practice of law. If reinstated, he must serve one year of monitored probation.
The Court also ordered Arkow to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.
The case is cited 2022-0716. Stark Cty. Bar Assn. v. Arkow, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-3209.


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