May 08, 2006

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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Posted on May 08, 2006