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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 1:00 am

Ex-partner of judge disciplined

JULIE CARR | Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill's ex-law partner was placed under disciplinary watch for two years for improperly using the justice's name on office signs and business cards.

Thomas C. Brown skirted an indefinite license suspension recommended but received harsher punishment than recommended by the disciplinary board.

The high court ruled 4-3 Thursday to impose a two-year stayed suspension on Brown's law license, allowing him to continue to practice as long as he meets the court's requirements and doesn't engage in any further misconduct.

O'Neill, who sat out the case, has been the only Democrat holding a statewide Ohio office since joining the court in 2013. He had initially agreed to Brown's plan to open O'Neill & Brown Law Office in 2015. He said he didn't realize it was improper. O'Neill is considering a run for governor next year.

O'Neill and Brown opened a law firm together in the 1980s, but they haven't actively practiced together since at least 1997. Brown had argued they were laying the groundwork to work together again after O'Neill retires from the bench. Brown's signs and business cards said the firm was established in 1981.

Under Ohio professional conduct rules, a firm can't use the name of a lawyer holding public office who doesn't currently practice there.