Portage County Lawyer Suspended for Lying to Court and Police About Client Affair

The Supreme Court of Ohio today suspended a Portage County attorney for one year, with six months stayed, for having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a client then lying about it to a municipal court judge, a police chief, and an opposing attorney.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court found Michael Noble of Ravenna violated the ethical rules governing the conduct of Ohio attorneys. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint against Noble with the Board of Professional Conduct in June 2021 based on actions he took in 2018 through 2020.

Lawyer Begins Two-Year Relationship With Client
In September 2018, a woman identified in court records as “Jane Doe” hired Noble to handle her divorce. Within weeks of meeting, Noble and Doe started a sexual relationship that continued for almost two years.

Doe’s husband, a police officer identified in court records as “DP,” hired a divorce attorney. Shortly after Noble filed the divorce complaint, DP’s lawyer met with Noble and asked if he was having an affair with Doe. Noble denied it. The husband’s lawyer suggested if the allegation were true, Noble should withdraw from the case.

Noble then told Doe he lied to the opposing lawyer and advised her that she should hire another attorney to handle the divorce. In January 2019, Noble withdrew from the case and transferred it to another lawyer. The divorce became final in August 2019.

The board found Noble violated an ethics rules by having a sexual relationship with a client that did not exist prior to the client-lawyer relationship, and by making a false statement of material fact in the course of representing a client.

Lies Continued After Case Included

In 2020, Noble was campaigning for a Portage County Common Pleas Court judgment. He was also trying to reconcile with his ex-wife, after the two had been divorced for several years. He did not tell his ex-wife he was still dating Doe and did not want the relationship with Doe to become public knowledge.

Noble denied to his ex-wife that he was having a relationship with Doe. He also told his ex-wife that Doe’s ex-husband was a police officer who was wrongly accusing Noble and Doe of having an affair. Noble’s ex-wife contacted DP seeking information about Noble and Doe. DP showed Noble’s ex-wife photos indicating Doe and Noble were still in a romantic relationship.

Noble’s ex-wife told Noble that if he was being truthful about not being involved with Doe, then they needed to be concerned about DP’s behavior. She said if Noble was not having an affair, then DP maybe trying to manipulate her into believing he was and was trying to probe her for damaging information about Noble.

Police Chief Contacted
Noble and his ex-wife contacted the police chief of DP’s department and said that DP was wrongly accusing Noble of having an affair with Doe. Both Noble and his ex-wife filed a complaint with the chief against DP When questioned by the chief, Noble denied the affair with Doe. The department then began a formal investigation of DP

DP had secretly recorded two encounters he had with Noble and the meeting he had with Noble’s ex-wife. He gave the investigator copies of those recordings. The department cleared DP of any wrongdoing, and charged Noble and his ex-wife with misdemeanor counts of falsification and making false alarms.

The charge against Noble was dismissed, and his ex-wife pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

Lawyer Lies During Court Hearing
In December 2020, Noble sought to seal the record of his dismissed criminal case. At a hearing on the matter, Noble tested that he did not lie to the police chief. However, when confronted by a prosecutor, Noble admitted that he lied in his complaint about DP

The professional conduct board found that Noble violated several ethical rules during his encounters with the court and the police chief by making a false statement to a court; engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law.

During his disciplinary proceedings, Noble expressed remorse for his actions and presented a written report from a counselor stating that he had made significant progress in therapy. The parties jointly recommended to the board that Noble be suspended for one year with six months stayed with the conditions that he did not commit further misconduct and continue to participate in mental-health counseling.

The Court adopted the board’s recommendation and also ordered Noble to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2021-1519. Disciplinary Counsel v. Noble, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-2190.

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