CANTON, OHIO: Tzangas Plakas Mannos Managing Partner Lee Plakas said he entered the legal profession to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and society as a whole and he’s been working toward that goal ever since.
During his more than 40 years as an attorney, he’s handled hundreds of civil jury trials in state and federal courts and won some of the highest verdicts in Stark County’s legal history in business litigation, employment harassment and nursing home negligence cases.
Over the summer, Plakas received notification from the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) that he had been recertified as a civil trial advocate after successfully completing the recertification process.
“Only a small percentage of American lawyers are board certified,” said Plakas. “I have been a certified trial advocate since 1998.
“I have also been certified by the American Board of Trial Advocates since 2003 and the International Society of Barristers in 2013, which is an invitation-only membership,” he said.
“All three of these organizations require peer evaluation. Your peers cannot be attorneys from your own firm and you must provide the organization with the names of judges who have seen you at trial.”
To maintain NBTA civil trial advocacy certification in the state of Ohio, attorneys are required to take additional bi-annual CLE courses in trial advocacy and undergo an extensive recertification process every five years in which they must demonstrate substantial trial experience, submit judicial and peer references and prove that they are in good standing.
One of the judges who submitted a reference on Plakas’ behalf was Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Forchione, the presiding judge in the corrupt activity lawsuit case brought by Mercy Medical Center against Aultman Health Foundation and its subsidiaries.
Plakas represented Mercy in the case, which led to a 2010 verdict and post-verdict proceedings against Aultman and its subsidiaries amounting to $14.7 million, including attorney fees and interest.
“We argued that the nonprofit hospital health system had entered into secret relationships and made secret payments to health insurance brokers to convert group health consumers to its health plans and health system,” said Plakas.
“The trial lasted nine weeks and was the longest civil trial in Stark County history,” said Judge Forchione. “Lee was one of the most prepared and methodical lawyers I’ve ever seen.
“I’ve presided over other complex and difficult cases in which he was the attorney and he demonstrated the same high quality work. He was an excellent choice for recertification. In fact, he is one of the top attorneys in our community.”
Born in Akron and raised in Bath Township, Plakas graduated from Revere High School in 1969.
After graduating from The University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in finance, he received a full academic scholarship to Akron Law.
“I think I first became serious about the law in college,” said Plakas. “With my background in finance I thought I would be a tax attorney, but I felt like I could make more of a difference as a civil trial advocate.”
Plakas began his career as an associate for the late George Tzangas, who was a solo practitioner at the time. The firm has since grown to more than 12 attorneys and has offices in Akron and Canton.
“My focus was always civil litigation, but my experience is somewhat different than other civil litigators in that I do personal injury and commercial litigation,” said Plakas. “Most attorneys focus on one or the other. I have been blessed to do both and have had some of the highest results in both types of cases in the region.”
Plakas has handled a number of diverse and high profile matters, including the successful defense of the storied Massillon High School football program.
“The Ohio High School Athletic Association was threatening to invoke the sports ‘death penalty’ against Massillon for alleged recruiting violations.
“The case rolled through administrative hearings, a common pleas court trial and ultimately the court of appeals, with accounts and photos of the proceedings being on the front pages of several regional newspapers as well as being the subject of news columns, editorials and radio talk shows spanning a number of weeks in the fall of 2001. The case is still cited as sports law precedent.”
He currently represents the city of Massillon in its ongoing efforts to fight the abrupt closure of Affinity Medical Center earlier this year.
Plakas first filed suit on behalf of Massillon to delay the closure and receive hospital assets. He is currently involved in negotiations with hospital systems to take over hospital operations.
“After we filed suit to delay the closing, we reached a resolution whereby Affinity would transfer over $26 million of the hospital’s real estate and equipment assets to the city of Massillon for $1 so that the hospital could explore saving hospital operations in Massillon. The efforts are currently ongoing.”
Since passing the bar in 1976, Plakas has worked to improve the legal profession. He is a founding member and former president of the Stark County Association for Justice.
A member of the American Association for Justice, Ohio Association for Justice and the American, Federal, Akron and Stark County bar associations, Plakas helped establish the Stark County Academy of Trial Lawyers and is one of the founding members of the Summit County Trial Lawyers Association.
Plakas has also served on the state board of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers (now Ohio Association for Justice) as a state trustee for the Fifth Appellate District and as a state Representative-at-Large.
In addition, he is a longstanding member of Akron Law’s Advancement Council, the primary advisory body to the law school.
“Throughout my career, I’ve tried to follow two principles, one of which is the Theodore Roosevelt quote, ‘Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care,’” said Plakas. “The other is a quote from Aristotle, which states ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’”
Legal News Reporter
Akron Legal News
Published: October 5, 2018