Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Disbarred Lawyer Can’t Use Juris Doctor Suffix

(CN) - A disbarred lawyer does not have a First Amendment right to append "J.D." or "Juris Doctor" to his name since he has been repeatedly rebuked for pretending to be an attorney, a Cleveland federal judge ruled.

Bruce Andrew Brown, who was admitted to the New York bar in 1985 and disbarred seven years later, has been a recurring character in the Ohio courts over the last 20 years despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that he has never been admitted to the practice of law in the state.

In 1991, Brown pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga County to passing bad checks and forging power of attorney. Four years later, he was convicted of 44 felonies in 1995 relating to the unauthorized practice of law, including grand theft, forgery and records tampering. Brown was brought up on similar charges in 2000 before the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel. Three years later, Brown pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga County again to 21 counts, including theft, false representation as an attorney, passing bad checks, forgery and uttering. Later that year, he pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery in Portage County. The disciplinary counsel charged Brown with unauthorized practice of law a second time in 2006.

The board found that Brown was running a business called B. Andrew Brown & Associates in Cleveland and the company's stationery bore the inscription B. Andrew Brown, Esq.

Over the years, the courts and disciplinary board have enjoined Brown from the unauthorized practice of law and from using the terms "Esq.," "Esquire," "J.D." or "Juris Doctor" alongside his name or business name.

Brown instead filed a pro se lawsuit against the Ohio Supreme Court and its disciplinary counsel, alleging that the J.D. injunction infringed on his First Amendment rights. He claimed that plenty of other law school graduates who are not admitted to any bar still use the attorney designation with their name.

The court dismissed Brown's complaint with a brief, but strongly worded, four-page opinion in December 2010.

"Despite two disciplinary cases involving ten incidents of the unauthorized practice of law, plaintiff apparently intends to continue this illegal conduct," U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan wrote in the Dec. 7 ruling. "He has used the term to induce others, including a federal judge and city prosecutor, that he was an attorney. ... Any other purported legal use of these terms is inconsequential compared to his past conduct. The court concludes that plaintiff has not been deprived of any constitutional rights."

But Brown still did not take the hint and filed a motion asking Gaughan to reconsider her decision.

Gaughan reaffirmed her position in a three-page opinion on Jan. 13.

"Plaintiff now argues that this court incorrectly stated in its opinion that he used the term 'Juris Doctor' or 'J.D.' to induce others to believe he was an attorney," Gaughan wrote.

But the judge said that the injunction was necessary since Brown has repeatedly used the aforementioned suffixes and esquire to mislead others about his ability to practice law.

"Although 'Esq.' was discussed, the same reasoning should be applied to the use of the terms 'Juris Doctor' or 'J.D.,'" the ruling states.

In the December ruling, Gaughan stressed that Brown's arguments were only compounding the court's consideration of further disciplinary actions.

"We expressly admonished respondent that he risked punishment for contempt for continuing to engage in the unauthorized practice of law," Gaughan wrote. "Clearly, respondent has not heeded this admonishment, nor has he heeded this court's injunction prohibiting him from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law."

Brown also goes by the names Amir Jamal Tauwab, Bruce Brown, Bruce A. Brown and B. Andrew Brown, the ruling also states.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.