St. Louis attorney Jonathan D. Valentino has been suspended following a Jan. 16 Missouri Supreme Court ruling after he allegedly lied to a client for more than five years about a lawsuit he never filed on the client's behalf in 2010.
No application for reinstatement shall be entertained by the high court for six months from the date of the order, according to the high court's brief order. Valentino also was ordered to pay $1,000 in costs.
Valentino was admitted to the Missouri bar in April 2004, and until February 2016 was an associate in the litigation department at the Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis, according to the Missouri office of chief disciplinary counsel's informant's brief filed with the court in late October.
In March 2016, Valentino went to work for Cofman Townsley in St. Louis, according to the brief. Valentino had no prior disciplinary record, according to the brief. While still with Armstrong Teasdale, Valentino was assigned in December 2009 to represent the client in a boundary dispute in which the client directed a lawsuit to be filed, according to the brief.
Valentino told the client that he filed the lawsuit in January 2010, according to the brief. "These statements were false in that no lawsuit had been filed by [Valentino]," the brief said.
For the next five years, Valentino provided regular updates to the client about the progress of the imaginary case, including service issues, trial date, a summary judgment issued in the client's favor and that an appeal had been filed, according to the brief.
It was not until January 2016, after Valentino failed to respond to the client's numerous inquiries about the "case", that he'd been lying the entire time, according to the brief. The following month, Valentino self-reported his misconduct to the Missouri office of chief disciplinary counsel, the brief said. Armstrong Teasdale refunded the client for the amount billed, according to the brief.
By way of explanation for why he initially failed to file the lawsuit on behalf of his client, Valentino "testified at the hearing before the disciplinary hearing panel that 'it was one of my smaller cases' and that he 'just flat out forgot' to file it," the brief said.