Thursday, December 5, 2013

Unauthorized Practice In Ohio

From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

The Ohio Supreme Court today  determined that a former law school student and a real estate appraiser who are  not attorneys engaged in the practice of law without being admitted to the bar  or having appropriate certification.

One-time law student pretended to be an attorney and a legal  intern       Paige N. Casey was a law student  at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law until October 2010 when she  was dismissed. She neither completed her law degree nor has ever been admitted  to practice law in Ohio.

The next year, when Casey’s  friend Jeremy Fishman received a traffic ticket, Casey told him she was an  attorney and took his case. Despite being questioned by the Euclid assistant  city prosecutor and a Euclid Municipal Court judge about whether she was  legally authorized to represent Fishman, she contended that she was a certified  legal intern who met the requirements to represent clients, and she continued  to work on the case. Casey also filed a plea identifying herself as Fishman’s  attorney and used email signatures listing the lawyer designation “J.D.” after  her name.

In today’s unanimous decision,  the court adopted the report of the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law  and found that Casey engaged in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) because  she provided legal services without being admitted or certified to practice law  and she falsely represented to others that she was permitted to practice law.

“The evidence before us clearly  demonstrates that Casey provided advice regarding a legal matter, prepared and  filed legal pleadings, and attempted to communicate with opposing counsel on  behalf of Fishman,” the per curiam (not authored by a specific justice) opinion  stated. “The evidence also demonstrates that Casey held herself out as a  licensed attorney to Fishman and that she represented to … employees of the  Euclid Municipal Court that she had the authority to practice law as a  certified legal intern.”

The court barred Casey from  providing legal services and conveying, indirectly or directly, that she is  authorized to perform those services in Ohio, unless she is admitted to  practice law in the state. In addition, the court fined her $1,000 plus costs.

Consultant not permitted to  cross-examine witnesses at property tax hearings      

In a  second UPL case, the court unanimously held that a real estate appraiser who  questioned a witness during a hearing of the Wayne County Board of Revision had  engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

John D.  Cleminshaw, who is not an attorney, was hired by the board of revision as a  consultant appraiser. During a hearing before the board, Cleminshaw  cross-examined a witness who appraised an Orville Shopping Center.

The UPL  board recommended that the court adopt a proposed consent decree, which is a  judgment that all the parties in a case agree to. The decree states that  Cleminshaw was unaware he was improperly practicing law at the hearing, he has  not repeated such conduct since he was informed of the investigation in January  2011, he cooperated fully with the investigation, and he harmed no third  parties by his actions. Cleminshaw agreed that he will not question witnesses  or take part in any other UPL activities during future board of revision  hearings. The decree notes that Cleminshaw is permitted to act as a consultant  to the board of revision, give advice to board members, and attend the board’s  hearings.

The  court, in a per curiam opinion, approved the consent decree.

The opinions are linked here and here. (Mike Frisch)

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