Court: 1-year suspension for Ohio St. case lawyer

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins | AP Published:

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended for one year the law license of an attorney whose emails to Jim Tressel triggered an ongoing scandal and NCAA investigation that cost the football coach his job at Ohio State University.

At issue was whether Columbus attorney Christopher Cicero violated professional rules of conduct that prohibit revealing information from meetings with a client or a prospective client.

The 5-2 court decision followed the recommendation of a disciplinary board that argued Cicero wrongly discussed interviews with tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife, a potential client. However, the court overruled the board's recommendation for a six-month suspension.

Cicero sent emails to Tressel in April 2010, warning him that players were selling memorabilia or trading them for tattoos. The email traffic sparked the scandal and ended Tressel's Ohio State tenure.

An NCAA investigation also led to a bowl ban this year, reductions in scholarships and the loss of Ohio State's $389,000 share of the Big Ten bowl pot a year ago. The entire 2010 season also was vacated.

Ohio State just completed a 12-0 season and is ranked No. 4 in the AP poll.

Justice Judith Lanzinger said the case went to the heart of the importance of confidentiality between a prospective client and an attorney.

"Prospective clients trust that their confidences will be protected when they engage in an initial consultation with an attorney," Lanzinger wrote. "Cicero's almost immediate dissemination of the detailed information that Rife provided on April 15 directly violated that trust."

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