Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court Sanctions Two Men for Unauthorized Practice of Law

The Ohio Supreme Court today found two men had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and ordered them to cease.

In separate per curiam opinions, the Court found:

  • Henry J. Ward Jr. of Akron provided legal representation and filed lawsuits while describing himself as “Running Wolf, Native American Indian; a historically Independent Paralegal, Attorney-in-Fact, Next Friend, and Tort Litigator.”
  • Matthew Cohen of Pickerington filed eviction notices and sought money damages in 32 cases regarding properties he owned and managed through limited liability companies.

Ward Case: Actions Filed in State, Federal Courts
In 2016, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint with the Court’s Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law against Ward for his legal representation of Patricia Marie Petroff-Kline.

Ward, who has never been licensed to practice law in Ohio, attempted to represent Petroff-Kline in the administration of her mother’s estate in Medina County Probate Court. He filed an “Emergency Motion for Continuance to File Report” document with the court. A probate court magistrate assigned to the case noted that Ward was attempting to represent the mother’s fiduciary without being a licensed attorney. He recommended the motion be denied, and the probate judge agreed.

Ward also filed two documents with the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Northern District of Ohio, including a complaint for medical malpractice and wrongful death. The judge dismissed the case and noted that Ward could not represent Petroff-Kline because he was not a licensed attorney.

Ward Snubs Investigation
Ward did not answer the complaint the disciplinary counsel filed with the board in September 2016. However, in December 2016, he faxed a document to the disciplinary counsel that was labeled a “motion to dismiss, set aside, and vacate” the complaint. He did not submit the document to the board, but the disciplinary counsel provided it.

The board noted that Ward did not answer the complaint or participate in a prehearing conference.

The opinion stated the Court has found the drafting and preparation of pleadings filed in Ohio courts to be part of the practice of law and that Ward engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by filing the documents. The Court described his conduct as “flagrant,” and issued two $2,500 civil penalties.

Along with the $5,000 penalty, the Court also barred Ward from preparing, signing, and filing legal documents and instruments on behalf of others in Ohio courts or engaging in other unauthorized legal practices.

The Court unanimously agreed to the decision, but Justice Judith L. French noted she would impose a $2,000 total fine.

2018-0699. Disciplinary Counsel v. Ward, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-5083.

Cohen Case: Landlord Mistakes Law
The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) filed a complaint against Cohen for his attempts to evict tenants from properties he owned and for seeking money damages. The OSBA identified 32 cases, beginning in January 2013, where Cohen sought judgments.

Once the OSBA learned of Cohen’s actions, the association sent him a letter notifying him of the allegation. Cohen stopped the practice once notified.

The parties agreed that Cohen’s action were “unknowing or unwitting,” and that he did not know that because the properties were owned by limited liabilities companies, he could not as non-attorney represent the companies in court. Cohen owns and manages all of the companies.

The decision noted that almost all the tenants were evicted in the cases he filed, but that in 28 of them, he pursued the tenants for money damages. In the four cases in which he was granted damages by the court, he has not attempted to collect them.

The Court chose not to impose any financial penalty on Cohen, but ordered him to not take further actions in the tenant cases or commit any other unauthorized practices of law.

While agreeing to the sanction, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Patrick F. Fischer and Mary DeGenaro recommended the Court remand the case to the board and for the board to consider whether Cohen should hire an attorney to vacate any monetary judgments he obtained.

2018-0703. Ohio State Bar Assn. v. Cohen, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-5084.

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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