LOGAN — A local attorney whose license was suspended last year has found himself in the middle of another situation with the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel.
According to court documents received by The Logan Daily News, Jason Sarver allegedly continued practicing law during the time in which his license was suspended.
His license was suspended on Nov. 28, 2018 for a period of two years, with 18 months stayed on condition that he comply with his Dec. 12, 2017 OLAP contract; take the multi-state professional responsibility exam and receive a passing score; complete 12 hours of continuing legal education in professional ethics or attorney-client relationships in addition to the requirements of Gov.Bar R. X; serve a two-year period of monitored probation in accordance with Gov.Bar R. V (21); and engage in no further misconduct.
Prior to his suspension, a Cleveland family retained Sarver to file a wrongful death action lawsuit, where a family member had died as the result of an automobile accident. From June 25, 2018 through Dec. 13, 2018, Sarver only communicated over the telephone and had not met the family face-to-face.
During this time, the insurance company settled with a $50,000 settlement, with all the proceeds from the settlement, minus his attorney fees and reimbursement for any advanced costs, being held in trust for the deceased woman’s minor child. Sarver accepted the settlement offer on behalf of the family. However, the settlement check had not been mailed at this time.
The money was allegedly to have been disbursed as — $500 for fiduciary fees; $16,665 for attorney fees; and $32,835 to a trust for the minor child. However, there was no paperwork filed with the Cuyahoga County Probate Court on behalf of the family.
While all of these transactions were taking place, Sarver still had his license intact. It wasn’t until he was suspended on Nov. 28, 2018, that this case became an issue. Sarver, at that time, failed to notify the family and the Crime Victim Services that his license had been suspended. He also failed to notify the insurance company of his suspension.
According to the documents, on Nov. 30, 2018 (two days after his suspension) Sarver allegedly forged a family member’s signature on the settlement release to the insurance company and falsely notarized his own signature.
Sarver received the settlement check on or about Dec. 10, 2018, at which time he allegedly signed the back of the check on behalf of his firm. He also forged the family member’s signature on the back of the check on behalf of the estate. At that time, he deposited the $50,000 check into his IOLTA account.
On or around Dec. 12, Sarver contacted the family and stated that he had a partial distribution from the settlement. When questioned why the family member was only receiving a partial disbursement from the estate, Sarver allegedly said, it was just a little something to get her through her first Christmas without her daughter.
It was during this time that Sarver and the family member met face-to-face for the first time, and Sarver presented her with a check for $4,734. This payment was made without approval by probate court. According to the paperwork received by The Logan Daily News, all withdrawals or transfers related to the settlement were made without probate court approval pursuant to Cuyahoga County Probate Court Local Rule 71.1.
On Dec. 26, 2018, Sarver filed an affidavit of compliance with the Supreme Court of Ohio regarding his suspension. In the affidavit, he falsely stated that he had notified all clients of his suspension via certified mail and that he had also notified all courts where he had pending cases.
The family Sarver was representing in the wrongful death action suit had no idea his license was suspended. Due to his actions of continuing to represent the family even after his license was suspended and not informing the family that his license was suspended, Sarver violated the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically:
• failing to notify family of his suspension;
• failing to provide the family the file upon termination of his representation;
• failing to notify the family of his suspension in accordance with the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Nov. 28, 2018 suspension order and by paying himself attorney fees without probate court approval in violation of Cuyahoga County Probate Court Local Rule 71.1;
• continuing to act on behalf of the family with both the insurance company and the Crime Victim Services Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office after his suspension;
• by advising relator that a magistrate had told him that he could disburse settlement money prior to probate court approval and that he should try to make the disbursement to the minor child less than $25,000;
• misrepresenting the family had personally appeared before him when he notarized the release, by forging the family member’s signature on the back of the settlement check and possibly the settlement release, and by advising the Supreme Court of Ohio in his affidavit of compliance that he had notified all courts and clients of his suspension; and
• failing to take appropriate action upon his suspension from law thus delaying the administration of the probate estate by at least six months.
The estate is currently at a standstill due to Sarver’s mishandling of the estate. Although Sarver has performed a good amount of services to the estate, a new attorney must now step in to complete the remaining probate court paperwork and appropriately disburse the settlement proceeds.
According to the paperwork, the relator, Scott J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, suggests that Sarver be required to make restitution of $50,000 to the estate so a new attorney can conclude the estate and appropriately disburse the funds.
Drexel also alleges that Sarver is chargeable with misconduct, and request that he be disciplined pursuant to Rule V of the Rules of the Government of the Bar of Ohio.
Sarver, who is a Rockbridge resident and attorney, is the former New Straitsville Village Solicitor and Village Solicitor for the Village of Corning. Upon his suspension in November 2018, The Logan Daily News contacted the Village of Corning’s Mayor Barbara Bragg, who said that Sarver would be welcomed back to the Village when he is reinstated.
His problems first began in February 2016, when he was arrested and arraigned on two charges of sexual battery; soon after, multiple charges were filed including intimidation of an attorney; obstructing justice; trafficking in drugs; breaking and entering; theft from a person in a protected class; bribery; and having weapons under disability.
Later in 2016, Sarver accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to two years of community control after pleading guilty to four misdemeanor charges in Hocking County Common Pleas Court. He pled guilty to one count of obstructing official business and three counts of criminal trespassing. Sarver was also court-ordered to pay $1,250 in fines; and to stay away from the victim.