A Bottle of White? A Bottle of Red? Perhaps a One-Year Suspension Instead

Attorney Rodger Moore enjoys a good bottle of wine.  Evidently, his budget does not.

After scamming his local grocery store for years by switching prices on expensive wines for a cheaper variety, Mr. Moore is now paying a hefty price–with his law license.

Mr. Moore became licensed to practice law in 2001.  His ethics problems started almost immediately thereafter.

In November 2001, Mr. Moore was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, after he attempted to leave a Kroger store with 12 bottles of wine, worth $152, without paying for them. He entered into an agreement that required him to complete community service and a nolle prosequi was subsequently entered in the matter.

In March 2012, Mr. Moore was charged with theft by shoplifting after he scanned UPC codes that he had carried into a Kroger store in Cincinnati, Ohio to purchase three bottles of expensive wine at a self-scan checkout register, reducing the price of the items purchased by $359. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was permitted to enter a diversion program. Mr. Moore later admitted that, prior to his arrest, he had used this method to steal expensive bottles of wine from the same store on five separate occasions.

empty-bottleIn July 2012, Mr. Moore sent a letter to the Cincinnati Bar Association to self-report the March 2012 shoplifting charge. In that letter, he made false statements regarding the March 2012 incident, failed to disclose that he had used the same subterfuge a number of times in the months preceding that incident, and failed to disclose the 2001 charge. He also attempted to mislead the Cincinnati Bar by making false statements and leaving out relevant information when the Bar interviewed him under oath and in his initial and supplemental responses to the Bar’s requests for admissions.

The Supreme Court of Ohio found that Mr. Moore’s conduct in 2001 violated Ohio Disciplinary Rule (“DR”) 1-102(A)(3) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in illegal conduct involving moral turpitude) and 1-102(A)(4) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).  The Court further found that Mr. Moore’s later conduct violated Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(a) (prohibiting knowingly making a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter), 8.4(b) (prohibiting a lawyer from committing an illegal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty or trustworthiness), and 8.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation). The Court also ruled that Mr. Moore failed to cooperate with the Ohio disciplinary investigation, in violation of Ohio law.

As a sanction, the Supreme Court of Ohio imposed a one-year actual suspension and one-year probationary period. Mr. Moore also was required to complete psychological counseling and to apply for reinstatement after serving his suspension.  Cincinnati Bar Association v. Rodger William Moore, Case No. 2014-1737 (Ohio June 25, 2015)

In January 2016, the USPTO Director served Mr. Moore with a complaint for reciprocal discipline and order to show cause why he should not receive the same sanction imposed in Ohio. Mr. Moore failed to respond to the complaint or show cause order.  Thereafter, the USPTO Director entered an order suspending Mr. Moore for one year in practice before the Office and further ordered that he serve a one-year period of probation.  In re Rodger W. Moore, Proc. No. D2016-11 (USPTO Dir. March 16, 2016).

This case illustrates two realities of bar disciplinary matters.

First, an attorney can lose his or her law license for conduct having nothing to do with the practice of law.  Indeed, even personal misconduct, such as a criminal conviction, can lead to attorney discipline. When the criminal conduct is the type that raises questions of a lawyer’s character, such as theft, attorney disciplinary authorities take notice.

Second, it is essential for lawyers to be fully candid when dealing with an ethics investigation.  In this case, Mr. Moore’s underlying misconduct was only made worse by his failure to deal honestly with bar counsel during its investigation.  Whatever benefit Mr. Moore had hoped to achieve by self-reporting his arrest to the Cincinnati Bar was lost as a result of his failure to be completely candid about the extent of his misconduct.  Failure to cooperate with bar counsel generally leads to more serious sanctions.


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