In Separate Cases, Supreme Court Finds that Two Non-Lawyers Practiced Law
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.
Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.
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