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Lawyer gets tattooed at disciplinary hearing

Pro tip for lawyers: Don’t tell anyone about college football players trading football memorabilia for tattoos. Well, at least not if you heard the gossip during a client meeting.

Ohio attorney Christopher Cicero will lose his law license for six months, an Ohio Supreme Court disciplinary board ruled this week.

Cicero sent emails to former Ohio State University coach Jim Tressel about players trading items like championship rings for a little body ink from a local parlor.

The problem? Cicero, a former walk-on at the university, gleaned this juicy information while meeting with tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife during a meeting in which the two were discussing whether Cicero would represent Rife in a federal drug-trafficking case.

Rife mentioned the sports souvenir/ink exchange and Cicero began emailing Tressel. The ensuing scandal eventually resulted in Tressel resigning as coach.

The board ruled Cicero had violated the code of professional conduct by leaking information he’d gained from a potential client during a meeting. The Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline made its initial ruling in February, but Cicero asked the board to reconsider. The board reaffirmed its decision Monday.


  1. You didn’t read this story any more closely than the people at the ABA Online Journal. Explain to me why the information in question was either confidential or privileged. Not everything a “prospective client” (the actual term from the Rule – not “potential” client) says to a lawyer in an initial consultation is. How was the information about the memorabilia either “related to the representation” or communicated for the purpose of getting legal advice on the drug trafficking charge?

  2. Just because a meeting was scheduled to discuss one legal matter does not mean that other legal matters discussed are not privileged. Trading memorabilia is not related to drug trafficking, but it is certainly something one might consult a lawyer about, particularly in a consultation meeting. As an attorney, Cicero knew there would be legal fallout from this information going public, further, information he received while discussing representation of a prospective client. The fact that it wasn’t the client’s primary problem, or even a problem the client was aware of doesn’t make it any less of legal issue being discussed with an attorney.