Submitted June 7, 2017
Final Report by the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law
of the Supreme Court, No. UPL 13-01.
Law Firm Co., L.P.A., and Jennifer N. Brown; and Jean D.
Blankenship, Bar Counsel, for relator.
1} On March 28, 2013, relator, Ohio State Bar
Association, filed a complaint with the Board of
Commissioners on the Unauthorized Practice of Law against
respondent, Home Advocate Trustees, L.L.C. ("HAT"),
a Washington corporation, and Melanie Biscardi, of Land
O'Lakes, Florida, and Shonnie Fancy, purportedly of
Redmond, Washington. The complaint alleged that HAT,
Biscardi, and Fancy engaged in the unauthorized practice of
law by providing legal counsel to Ohio residents whose Ohio
real property was in foreclosure and that their conduct
constituted the unauthorized practice of law.
2} Unable to serve the complaint on Fancy, relator
voluntarily dismissed her from the case. Biscardi answered
the complaint and was deposed by relator. Although HAT was
served with a copy of the complaint at its California office,
it did not file an answer.
3} In October 2013, relator moved for judgment on
the pleadings as to Biscardi and default judgment as to HAT
or alternatively, for summary judgment as to both. On review,
a three-member panel of the board ordered relator to submit a
supplemental brief to address the issue of civil penalties
and allowed HAT and Biscardi 20 days to file an answer brief.
Relator filed the brief and later dismissed the case against
Biscardi pursuant to Civ.R. 41(a).
4} The panel granted a default judgment against HAT
and found that the company had engaged in the unauthorized
practice of law as charged in the complaint. Consequently, it
recommended that we issue an injunction prohibiting HAT from
engaging in further acts of the unauthorized practice of law
and impose a civil penalty of $10, 000. The board adopted the
panel's findings and recommendation.
5} We adopt the board's findings of fact and
determination that HAT engaged in the unauthorized practice
of law, and we agree that an injunction and civil penalties
6} At her deposition, Biscardi testified that her
first contact with HAT occurred when she responded to a
Craigslist job posting for a paralegal with a real-estate
background. Mark Farley interviewed her by telephone and
introduced himself as an attorney. Biscardi accepted the job
and worked as an independent contractor for HAT from February
or March 2011 until October 2012, earning $12 per hour.
7} Throughout her employment, Biscardi acted under
the supervision and instruction of Farley-whom she believed
to be an attorney. Later, she learned that his legal name was
Mark S. Farhood and that he was not, in fact, an attorney.
Indeed, none of the individuals named in the complaint has
ever been admitted to the practice of law in Ohio.
8} Biscardi explained that HAT marketed itself as an
entity that provided assistance to financially distressed
homeowners. It was her understanding that after a homeowner
transferred property to HAT, the company would assist that
homeowner in obtaining a new mortgage for the property and
help the homeowner get the property back.
9} As a paralegal, legal supervisor, and foreclosure
specialist, Biscardi supervised four or five HAT employees
who were located in several foreign countries. She admitted
that the employees that she supervised prepared and filed
documents on behalf of homeowners using templates provided by
Farley. But she noted that those actions were also supervised
by Farley. The documents filed included notices of
appearance, change-of-mailing-address and third-party
authorizations, proofs of service, and requests for
production of documents in two Ohio cases: CitiMortgage,