Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Sidney Man Engaged in Unauthorized Practice of Law

The Ohio Supreme Court today decided that a Sidney man engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he told a debt collector for the Ohio attorney general that he was the “authorized representative” of another person and demanded the collector pay his client $100,000.

A unanimous Supreme Court found Ned K. Schroeder engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, and fined him $2,500. The Court also imposed an injunction on Schroeder, warning him not to perform legal services unless he becomes authorized to practice law in Ohio.

The Court’s per curiam opinion noted that Schroeder did not respond to a complaint filed against him by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, but instead sent the document back to the office with each page bearing the words “rejected,” and “this law does not apply to me.”

Schroeder Responds to Debt Collector
The opinion noted that Schroeder has never been admitted to practice law in Ohio and is not authorized by any other means to practice law in the state. In March 2015, the Revenue Group, a debt collection agency acting on behalf of the attorney general’s office, sent a letter to James Freytag attempting to collect $24,175 that Freytag allegedly owed.

Schroeder responded in writing to the Revenue Group as Freytag’s authorized representative in the dispute and requested validation of the debt. Schroeder not only made legal arguments in his letter, but also demanded additional documentation from the company about its operations. He also attached an invoice from Aaron Lee Hess Private Consulting Group, which shares his address, seeking $100,400 for the Revenue Group’s use of the name James Freytag.

The disciplinary counsel submitted its complaint to the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law. Schroeder did not respond to the complaint or to a motion by the disciplinary counsel for a default judgment. The board found Schroeder engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and recommended the Supreme Court block him from performing further legal services and fine him $2,500.

Court Agrees Conduct Was Unauthorized Practice
The Supreme Court, which regulates the practice of law in Ohio, stated its authority to “protect the public against incompetence, divided loyalties, and other attendant evils that are often associated with unskilled representation.”

The opinion noted that a non-attorney who attempts to negotiate legal claims on behalf of another or advises others of their legal rights and the terms and conditions for settling a claim is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Even if the individual is not compensated for the efforts, it is still a violation of the law.

The Court found the disciplinary counsel provided sufficient evidence to show Schroeder engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in his representation of Freytag.

Court Imposes Sanction
When imposing a sanction for someone engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the Court considers several factors including aggravating circumstances that could enhance a penalty and mitigating factors that could lead to a less-severe punishment.

The Court found that Schroeder’s refusal to answer the complaint and to participate in a scheduled prehearing telephone conference were aggravating factors along with his refusal to acknowledge that he provided legal services to Freytag.

“Although the record does not demonstrate that Schroeder’s conduct caused any financial harm to Freytag, the board found that his conduct served to undermine public confidence in the judicial system and risked delaying the resolution of Freytag’s case,” the opinion stated.

The board noted that Schroeder was warned that his conduct was the unauthorized practice of law, but the Court did not consider it an aggravating factor because he was warned after he was found to be assisting Freytag. The Court noted that failure to heed a warning is an aggravating factor if the warning is sent before a person engages in the illegal conduct.

The Court found no mitigating factors that would warrant reducing Schroeder’s penalty, and imposed the injunction and fine.

2017-0540. Disciplinary Counsel v. Schroeder, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-8790.

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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