642 N.E.2d 71 (Ohio Bd.Unauth.Prac. 1994), UPL-93-5, Cleveland Bar Assn. v. Middleton

Docket Nº:UPL-93-5.
Citation:642 N.E.2d 71, 66 Ohio Misc.2d 9
Party Name:CLEVELAND BAR ASSOCIATION v. MIDDLETON et al.
Attorney:JOHN W. WADDY, Jr., Chairman., The relator, the Cleveland Bar Association, pursuant to Gov. Bar R. VII(5), filed a complaint against the respondents, David J. Middleton, June Middleton, and Middleton & Associates, a.k.a. Middleton Associates. The complaint alleges that the respondents, who are no...
Case Date:July 11, 1994
Court:Ohio Board of Commissioners on the Unauthorized Practice of Law
 
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642 N.E.2d 71 (Ohio Bd.Unauth.Prac. 1994)

66 Ohio Misc.2d 9

CLEVELAND BAR ASSOCIATION

v.

MIDDLETON et al.

No. UPL-93-5.

Ohio Board of Commissioners on the Unauthorized Practice of Law.

July 11, 1994

Page 72

Robert T. Fay, Lakewood, John A. Hallbauer and Harold H. Reader, Cleveland, for relator Cleveland Bar Ass'n.

JOHN W. WADDY, Jr., Chairman.

The relator, the Cleveland Bar Association, pursuant to Gov. Bar R. VII(5), filed a complaint against the respondents, David J. Middleton, June Middleton, and Middleton & Associates, a.k.a. Middleton Associates. The complaint alleges that the respondents, who are not attorneys, search public real estate tax records in Cuyahoga County for the purpose of identifying commercial properties that might be overvalued by the county auditor. The respondents file assessment complaints in their own name with the Board of Tax Appeals ("BTA") and thereafter solicit the fee titleholder to enter into an agreement with Middleton & Associates ("Middleton"). Among other things, Middleton offers to assist the titleholder in the preparation, presentation, and/or negotiation of claims before the board of revision pursuant to a contingent fee agreement. If the fee titleholder enters into the contingent fee agreement, Middleton induces the titleholder to file an additional complaint in the taxpayer's name with the board of revision. Thereafter, respondents appear before the board of revision at a hearing to determine the fair market value of the property. Based on the [66 Ohio Misc.2d 11] foregoing, the relator seeks a determination, pursuant to Gov. Bar R. VII(8), that respondents have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

In their answer, the respondents acknowledge that they are not attorneys; admit searching public records in Cuyahoga County for the purpose of identifying properties that might be overvalued; admit that they use an agreement which provides for representation before the board of revision, but calls for them to engage an attorney on behalf of the titleholder for any appeals beyond the county board of revision; and deny that they have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

Pursuant to Gov. Bar R. VII(7)(A), a formal hearing was held on March 23, 1994. Present and participating in the hearing were John W. Waddy, Jr., Chairman, Jack R. Baker, Craig D. Barclay, Paul D. Frankel, Clark B. Weaver, and D. John Travis.

At issue in this case is the propriety of respondents' activities in connection with challenges to the valuation of real property. Challenges regarding the valuation of realty are authorized by R.C. 5715.19 and may be initiated by filling out a simple form. In that form, the complaining party notes the permanent parcel number of the subject property, what the claimed value should be, and the reason for the difference between the claimed value and the appraised value. Thereafter, a hearing is held in every case before the appropriate county board of revision. At the hearings, titleholders may be represented by attorneys. It also has been the practice in this state to have non-attorneys appear on behalf of the fee holders before boards of review. A record is made of

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the testimony and evidence adduced, in some counties with a court reporter, and in others in a less formal fashion, such as tape recording. The complaint is considered by the three-member board, which is composed of the county auditor, the president of the board of county commissioners, and the county treasurer. Although the board members may be...

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