Done Deed…

Last month, the Ohio Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (“UPL Board”) recommended that the Ohio Supreme Court charge Thomas Jones Jr., a contractor, with a $10,000 civil penalty for preparing illegal quitclaim deeds. According to the UPL Board, Mr. Jones used these quitclaim deeds to take over certain properties from previous owners.

Mr. Jones, along with disbarred attorney Michael Troy Watson, purchased foreclosed homes in order to prevent them from being demolished. Once purchased, the pair filled out deed templates they found online. The homeowner would then sign the deed, and Mr. Jones and Mr. Watson would become the new owners. However, Mr. Jones is not an attorney, and thus he is not authorized to create a deed for former property owners. In fact, a non-lawyer is prohibited from creating a deed for anyone other than himself.

Presenting his case in front of the Ohio Supreme Court, Mr. Jones stated that he was unaware that his behavior violated the law. He further claimed that if he had known creating those deeds was illegal, he would never have done so. The presiding justices appeared sympathetic to an extent, but admonished Mr. Jones that ignorance of the law is not an excuse to violate it.

Do you think that a $10,000 civil penalty is justified?

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