Tape-Recording of Board Members' Alleged Collusion In $6.4 Million Ohio Supreme Court Judgment Exposed In Motion for Reconsideration

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A transcript of a lawfully tape recorded pre-trial conference call filed with a motion for reconsideration describes a Panel Chair's promise to end a case before his term expired, denying due process.

misrepresented its possession of substantial and credible evidence

Two motions for reconsideration filed Monday, October 26, 2009 with the Ohio Supreme Court ask the court to reconsider its decision in case number 2005-0422, ordering two estate-planning companies to pay fees of nearly $6.4 million.

The court's order resulted from an unauthorized practice of law case brought by the Columbus Bar Association against American Family Prepaid Legal Corporation, Heritage Marketing and Insurance Services, Inc., and co-owners Stanly Norman and Jeffrey L. Norman. The order concluded the companies sold legal plans to senior citizens in violation of laws barring non-attorneys from practicing law.

The court reached its decision based on the recommendation from the Ohio Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law's Final Report in case number UPL 02-10. One motion claims an August 17, 2007 pretrial conference call was lawfully recorded by a Columbus, Ohio defendant that was a party to the call. A transcript of a tape recording of the Board's three "volunteer" Panel Members, James L. Ervin, Don J. Hunt, and C. Lynne Day was attached as an exhibit with the filing.

The motion for reconsideration indicates, "Don Hunt stated he had, 'white knuckles from not speaking out' and that C. Lynne Day admitted to 'looking stuff up about them (defendants) online'." The motion further states, "Finally, and most egregious, is a statement of Panel Chair, James L. Ervin, esq. who declared, 'I made a promise that when I leave this board, this case will be over', to which C. Lynne Day and Don Hunt then concurred. James Ervin, whom made this promise, was serving a term set to expire at the end of 2007," a few months from the date of the pretrial conference.

The motion continues with, "It is clear that the only mechanism at the disposal of this board to conclude the matter as it was pending in front of the Board, by the conclusion of Chairman Ervin's term, was to grant Summary Judgment, which the board did two months later on December 21st, 2007. This was at the tail end of the Chair's term and as promised to the other board members by the Chair. In light of these facts, it is clear that Summary Judgment was granted against the Defendants by a biased judicial body that clearly had a fixed anticipatory judgment thereby denying Due Process."

The Supreme Court adopted the Board's recommendation in their order dated October 26, 2009. The motion further states, "the Court's Order has adopted into virtually all of its findings mountains of conclusory and unsupported "allegations".

According to defendant Jeffrey L. Norman, "the case record is devoid of any evidence to support the allegations presented by the Columbus Bar Association. The Columbus Bar Association's attorney, Joyce D. Edelman, argued complaints to support her client's allegations and refused to acknowledge uncontested complaints are not evidence."

An exhibit of e-mail correspondence attached to the motion for reconsideration also demonstrates Chair James Ervin admitted to participating in ex parte contact with a material witness outside the presence of counsel and the defendants. Rule 2.9 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct states, "A judge shall not initiate, receive, permit, or consider ex parte communications."

The motions ask the court to "either rescind the October 14th order or, remand the case back to the Board for a hearing before an unbiased panel of judges in order to properly put the facts and evidence of this case on record."

A memorandum in opposition to summary judgment filed in the case by defendant Jeffrey L. Norman in 2007 provided a legal opinion from Bruce A. Green, Stein Professor at Fordham University School of Law. Mr. Green's opinion contradicts the court's order and states, "In sum, American Family representatives do not provide specific legal advice constituting the practice of law; they provide a sales presentation for a prepaid legal services plan."

Other motions filed in the case indicate no evidence is in the record of any senior citizen suffering any damages from the services they obtained through the legal plan; and alleged unsuitable annuities sold by Heritage Marketing and Insurance Services, Inc. were actually guaranteed principle contracts that have protected hundreds of millions of dollars of Ohio senior citizen's savings from any losses, even through the worst economic recession in decades.

A memorandum in opposition to summary judgment filed by defendant Jeffrey L. Norman also claims that Columbus Bar Association attorney Joyce D. Edelman made an attempt to manufacture false evidence (approximately two weeks before filing her motion for summary judgment) by asking American Family's plan attorney to sign an affidavit contradicting his prior deposition testimony stating he controlled all legal decisions and supervised the entire production of legal documents for plan members (the plan attorney refused to sign the affidavit).

A motion for summary judgment filed in the case by defendants claims the Columbus Bar Association may have "misrepresented its possession of substantial and credible evidence" in a cease and desist motion filed in March 2005 with the Ohio Supreme Court.

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Jeff Norman

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