CLEVELAND: — A Cleveland attorney, who called his paralegal “stupid, dumb and fat” and used other sexually charged language toward the woman for over two years, has been suspended by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Howard Evan Skolnick, a lawyer since 1993, had his license suspended for six months, the court announced this week.
The state Board of Professional Conduct, which investigated the attorney, accused Skolnick of violating professional conduct rules by “verbally harassing” the woman for more than two years. Records show Skolnick reached a $300,000 out-of-court settlement with the woman.
The Supreme Court found Skolnick’s conduct warranted a suspension, despite a recommendation by the board that a six-month suspension be held in abeyance.
“Given the longstanding and pervasive nature of Skolnick’s degrading verbal attacks against his paralegal...we find that a one-year suspension, with six months stayed on the condition that he engage in no further misconduct, is the appropriate sanction for that misconduct,” the court wrote.
The woman said she was hired by Skolnick’s law firm in August 2011. Soon after, Skolnick began calling her names and criticizing her body.
Court records show he called her “stupid, dumb, fat and `whorey'.” He also lodged insults against the woman’s husband and her mother. Records show Skolnick also sexually harassed the woman and a female co-worker by making a request for a sexual favor while inside a car.
The woman said she could not afford to quit her job and endured the ridicule until she was hired elsewhere in 2014. She recorded many of the insults, records show.
The ongoing harassment caused the woman to suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, the court found.
Skolnick told investigators that his remarks were often made in humor. He also said he had been diagnosed with cyclothymia disorder and had showed signs of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Since the allegations came forward, Skolnick has relinquished some of his firm’s management duties.
The firm's website describes Skolnick as "A truly caring and passionate person, Howard's magnetic personality, coupled with his vast knowledge of the law, has won the hearts of jurors time and time again."