Attorney John Daniel Mismas has been suspended for sending inappropriate, sexually explicit text messages and demanding sexual favors as a condition of employment to a third-year law student who had interviewed for, and later accepted, a position as a law clerk at his law firm.
Mismas sought to hire a student law clerk at his firm. He interviewed a female student and the two exchanged numerous text messages. Despite the inappropriate sexual content of the first few messages, the female student accepted employment with Mismas’ firm.
One example of an inappropriate text exchange:
A little before midnight, Mismas began to quiz the female about an agreement that he had given her to review. The conversation then turned to how Mismas could ensure that the female would be loyal to him. He told her:
I have an idea but your [sic] not going to like it,” and stated that she would “bolt” if he said it.
After she responded that he had already taken the conversation pretty far and that she had not bolted, he suggested that she perform a sex act for him. The female flatly rejected Mismas’ suggestion, but he continued to press the issue. When she told him to stop and urged him to admit that he was joking, he repeatedly refused and insisted that her employment depended on her compliance telling her:
If you show up at 11 you know what’s expected.” He further stated, “So it’s your choice. Ok. I’ll be there at 11. If you show up great. You know what you gptt. GoTta do [sic]. If not Good luck to you.”
At approximately 1:30 a.m., the female gave Mismas one last chance to say that he had just been messing around but he replied, “Nope. Not kidding.”
Further, 10 days into employment with the firm, Mismas sent the female a text invite to travel with him to Washington, DC on business. After she informed him that she had a prior commitment and would not travel with him, Mismas sent her a text stating:
That’s strike 1 for you. 3 strikes and you are out.”
The female student resigned her employment the next day.
The parties stipulated that Mismas’ conduct toward the female violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(h) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law).
Among several mitigating factors, the Court pointed out that Mismas testified he was drinking at the time of sending the texts and he showed genuine remorse for his actions, even referring to his conduct as “disgusting and grotesque.”
The aggravating factors included:
- the vulnerability of and resulting harm to the victim of the misconduct (BCGD Proc.Reg. 10(B)(1)(h))
- Mismas acted with a dishonest or selfish motive (BCGD Proc.Reg. 10(B)(1)(b))
Rejecting the Board’s recommendation of public reprimand, the Court found Mismas engaged in undignified and unprofessional conduct by targeting an aspirant to the profession for sexual harassment:
Unwelcome sexual advances are unacceptable in the context of any employment, but they are particularly egregious when they are made by attorneys with the power to hire, supervise, and fire the recipient of those advances.”
The Court also pointed to the important role legal clerkships play in “developing the practical skills necessary for law students to become competent, ethical, and productive members of the legal profession.”
As a result, the Court suspended Mismas from the practice of law in Ohio for one year, with the last six months stayed on the conditions that he engage in no further misconduct and continue to comply with all recommendations of his treating professionals.