Lawyers' Group Says Parents 'Illegally' Practiced Law

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

UPDATE: The lawsuit against the Woods has been dropped and the Cleveland Bar Assn. has apologized. Story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer..

CLEVELAND -Four years ago, Brian and Susan Woods settled a long-fought lawsuit against the Akron School District over their son's special education services.

As a result, the district agreed to pay to send Daniel, who has autism and is now 11, to a private school.

Now the Cleveland Bar Association, the organization that represents thousands of lawyers in the area, is threatening the couple with a $10,000 fine for illegally representing their son instead of hiring a lawyer, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Michael Harvey, the attorney who is handling the case for the bar association, said his organization would back off if the parents simply admit to their mistake and apologize.

He added that special education cases are too complicated and risky for nonprofessionals to handle.

"You hope parents will do the right job for the child, but that's not always the case," Harvey said.

The law that Harvey referred to prohibits someone who is not a lawyer to represent another person. The Plain Dealer noted that other legal advocacy groups, including the American Bar Association, said they have never heard of such a law being used to prohibit parents from representing their children.

Current state law specifically prohibits parents from handling special education cases -- but that law was not passed until last year.

Mr. Woods said: "The purpose of this is to harass us."

The Ohio Supreme Court has asked the bar association to provide proof that the Woods have "engaged in the unauthorized practice of law."

"Bar Association battles parents" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Opinion: "Lawyers v. Parents" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

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May 08, 2006 - InclusionDailyNews Department | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

So, basically, the lawyers are arguing that their occupation is a "closed shop", that they are fully unionized; that no-one else is equal before the law unless they use a lawyer; and no-one has the right to represent themselves?

How in heaven's name do they have the cheek?

Do they want all the money, every little last sniff of it?

If, as you say, there are 1000's of lawyers in the Cleveland area then, just perhaps, there is an over-supply. If market forces have their way then there ought to be a reduction in lawyers fees - hey isn't that the way a free market economy works? Anyone seen the fee reduction yet?

Posted by: tashammer on May 8, 2006 10:59 AM

So pretty much what Ohio is now saying is that the rights and protections of IDEA only applies to kids whose parents have enough disposable income (an oxymoronic statement when you're raising a child w/ a disability) to hire attorneys?

Or perhaps OH has also mandated that SDs pony up for the parents attorney fees? HAH... sorry, I'm delirious.

Let's bury IDEA and be done w/ it. At this point, false hope is about all it offers.

Posted by: Susan on May 8, 2006 06:47 PM

You are witnessing the erosion of the US Constitution and US Civil Rights before your very eyes.
Since when is it prohibited to represent yourself in this Country?
What ever happened to Propria Persona?
What ever happened to prisoners representing themselves?
We are losing America as we know it.
If the Civil Rights advocates fail to respond to this then nothing will faze them at all.
How sad of a country this has become.
Illegal Immigrants have more rights than America Citizens.

Posted by: AJ on May 8, 2006 08:56 PM

They're suing people for successfully representing themselves, saying it's too complex for them? That's great! The lawyers would have a better case if the folks had not succeeded in doing the complex work themselves, and if they offered pro-bono hours.

Posted by: Bruce Triggs on May 18, 2006 11:37 AM

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