The Ohio Supreme Court issued a ruling on November 9, 2023, in the case of Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association v. Brett Carson regarding the unauthorized practice of law.
The case stemmed from a complaint filed in December 2021 by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association against Carson, an Ohio resident who is not licensed to practice law. The complaint alleged Carson engaged in the unauthorized practice of law on two occasions – in matters related to Randa Jackson and Rajeswari Chandrasekar Ganesh.
In the Jackson matter, the Bar Association alleged Carson held himself out as an attorney and filed legal documents on Jackson’s behalf regarding a dispute with a contractor. As evidence, the Bar Association provided affidavits from Jackson and Christopher Klasa, bar counsel, as well as copies of subpoenas filed in Jackson’s case in January 2021. The subpoenas included affidavits of service signed by Carson as the serving attorney.
In the Ganesh matter, the Bar Association alleged Carson prepared legal documents, provided legal advice, and collected a $2,500 retainer fee. As evidence, they provided a grievance and documents from attorney LeeDaun Williams, who represented Ganesh. However, the Court found Williams’ statements were based on hearsay and she lacked personal knowledge of the facts. The documents submitted, emails allegedly between Ganesh and Carson, were also not sworn or certified properly.
The Board found Carson in default for failing to respond. They recommended the Court find Carson engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in both matters and issue an injunction, along with $5,000 civil penalties for each violation.
However, in its November 9th ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected some of the Board’s findings. The Court dismissed the Ganesh matter entirely, finding the Bar Association failed to present proper sworn evidence as required. In the Jackson matter, the Court found the evidence demonstrated Carson held himself out as an attorney by signing the subpoena affidavits. As a result, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Carson from any future unauthorized practice in the state. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 civil penalty. When determining the appropriate sanction, the Court noted Carson’s minimal cooperation in the investigation and that the conduct involved a single instance of misrepresentation.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.