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Carter v. Durden

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

March 2, 2017

MICHAEL CARTER PLAINTIFF
v.
CORNELIUS DURDEN DEFENDANT-APPELLEE [Appeal by Bruce A. Brown, Third-Party Defendant]

         Civil Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court, Housing Division Case No. 2014-CVG763

          FOR APPELLANT Bruce A. Brown, pro se.

          FOR APPELLEE Cornelius Durden, pro se.

          BEFORE: Blackmon, J., E.A. Gallagher, P.J., and Stewart, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          PATRICIA ANN BLACKMON, JUDGE.

         {¶1} This cause came to be heard upon the accelerated calendar pursuant to App.R. 11.1 and Loc.R. 11.1. Bruce A. Brown ("Brown") appeals pro se from the municipal court's judgment entry granting $117, 000 against him and in favor of Cornelius Durden ("Durden"). Brown assigns the following sole error for our review:

I. The Supreme Court of Ohio has exclusive jurisdiction over the unauthorized practice of law.

         {¶2} Having reviewed the record and pertinent law, we affirm the court's decision. The apposite facts follow.

         {¶3} In May 2011, Durden paid Brown $9, 000 "to help him negotiate with the county concerning taxes" relating to a foreclosure action against Durden. Brown took no action on Durden's behalf, and in August 2013, Michael Carter ("Carter") purchased Durden's property at a tax foreclosure sale. In January 2014, Carter initiated eviction proceedings against Durden in the Cleveland Municipal Court, Housing Division.

         {¶4} On October 1, 2014, Durden filed a third-party complaint against Brown alleging fraud, breach of contract, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and quiet title. Brown, acting pro se, filed an answer summarily denying all allegations and raising the following affirmative defenses: the third-party complaint "fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" and "is barred by the Third-Party Plaintiffs own acts and omissions." According to the docket, Brown's answer is the only appearance or filing he made in the case.

         {¶5} On May 11, 2015, the court adopted the magistrate's decision finding in favor of Durden on the fraud claim. Although there is no transcript, [1] the magistrate's decision states that the court held a hearing on April 29, 2015. Brown claims that he did not attend this hearing because he was incarcerated. The magistrate's decision concluded, in pertinent part, the following:

Durden is entitled to recover damages from Bruce Brown for fraud. Brown intentionally misrepresented to Durden that he was an attorney and would work on Durden's behalf concerning taxes owed to the county. Brown * * * took no action on Durden's behalf. Instead, he continued to lie to Durden until he was uncovered because of a criminal action filed against him.

         {¶6} The court awarded Durden $17, 000 in compensatory damages and, after finding that "Brown's fraud was malicious, " $100, 000 in punitive damages. It is from this order that Brown appeals.

         {¶7} Brown's argument is that the Ohio Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the "unauthorized practice of law" under R.C. 4705.07(A)(3). "Only the supreme court may make a determination that any person has committed the unauthorized practice of law in ...


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