Cases & Deals

"Jail house lawyer's" charges dismissed by Ohio Supreme Court

Clients Cotton, Charles

Shawn Organ and Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt of Jones Day Columbus successfully represented an Ohio inmate who was charged with the unauthorized practice of law by, according to Ohio's Disciplinary Counsel, serving as a "jail house lawyer." Mr. Cotton came to the attention of Ohio's Disciplinary Counsel because he would place his name on the pleading as "Pro Se Assistant." The Ohio Supreme Court appointed Mr. Organ and Ms. Sjoberg-Witt to represent Mr. Cotton after the Court remanded the matter to the Board for the Unauthorized Practice of Law for consideration of the facts of the case in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. Avery, wherein "jail house lawyers" cannot be prohibited by the State for assisting other inmates unless and until the State can show that it provides the inmates "meaningful access" to the courts. The case is unique and interesting as the State is claiming that meaningful access is being provided via inmate law clerks, however, discovery taken by the Columbus attorneys reflects that these inmate law clerks performs the same task for which Mr. Cotton was being prosecuted. Mr. Organ argued the case before the Ohio Supreme Court on February 27, and on September 5, 2007, the Ohio Supreme Court handed the Columbus appellate team a victory, holding that the charges against Mr. Cotton shall be dismissed.

Supreme Court of Ohio Disciplinary Counsel v. Charles Cotton