Hickman Lowder

We meet the lifetime legal needs of children and adults with disabilities, the elderly, and their families.

Franklin J. Hickman

Franklin J. Hickman


Practice Areas

  • Civil Litigation
  • Public Agency Advocacy
  • Special Education


Attorney Franklin J. Hickman has focused his career on legal issues affecting persons with mental disabilities since his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1973, where he received the Wiley C. Rutledge Memorial Award. Frank's first major case established the right of indigent persons in Ohio to have legal counsel provided at public expense at their civil commitment proceedings.

During his nine years as a member of the Law Reform Unit of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Frank brought numerous successful class actions establishing and defining the treatment rights of patients in psychiatric hospitals and state institutions for persons with developmental disabilities, and of prison inmates with psychiatric problems. He was founder and director of the Cleveland Bar advocacy project which sponsored education programs for the private bar and conducted extensive advocacy work in the establishment of group homes.

Since going into private practice in 1981, Frank has focused his practice on families with members who are mentally and/or physically impaired as well as the agencies and county boards throughout the state which provide services to persons with mental illness or developmental disabilities or substance abuse problems.

Frank has represented families in special education cases since 1975 in negotiations, mediations, due process proceedings and cases in all courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He spends a major part of his practice on cases under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which defines and protects rights of children who need special education. He was named Lawyer of the Year for education work in 2018 and 2023.

He has been on the faculty of the medical (since 1978), and law (from 1988 to 2016) schools at Case Western Reserve University teaching law and psychiatry. For the past 50 years, Frank has presented over 3,000 local, regional, and national seminars and workshops on legal issues relating to mental disability. Frank often speaks on topics related to Special Education and Benefits.


  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Association of County DD Boards (2018)
  • AV Preeminent® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Ohio Super Lawyer (2012, 2018-2023)
  • Named among Best Lawyers® since 2014
  • Best Lawyers® Lawyer of the Year for Education Law in the Cleveland area (2018 and 2023)
  • Inducted into the Cuyahoga County Board of DD Hall of Fame (2012)
  • Merit Service Award, Cleveland Bar Association
  • President’s Award for Partnering in Quality from OACBHA (2006)
  • 1994 John Minor Wisdom award for Public Service and Professionalism from the American Bar Association Litigation Section

Bar Admissions

  • Ohio, 1973
  • U.S. Federal Courts, 1973
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit, 1982
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1992


  • University of Pennsylvania Law School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • J.D. - 1973
    • Honors: Wiley C. Rutledge Memorial Award
  • Catholic University of America, Washington, District of Columbia
    • M.A. - 1970
  • Catholic University of America, Washington, District of Columbia
    • B.A. - 1969
    • Honors: summa cum laude

Professional Associations

  • Cleveland Bar Advocacy Project, Founder and Director
  • Law Reform Unit of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Member
  • The Morgan Conservatory, Board Member

Published Works

  • Preparation and Trial of a Civil Commitment Case, American Bar Association 1979
  • Right to Refuse Psychotropic Medication, 5 Mental Disability Law Reporter 122, Vol. 6, 1982 (cited by US Supreme Court in Washington v. Harper 494 US 210 (1990) (principal author with Olsen and Resnick), 1982
  • "To Stay at Home: Analysis of Rights and Recommendations on Procedures for Persons Receiving Mental Health Services in the Community" 7 Journal of Law and Health (Cleveland-Marshall College of Law) 219, 1993, (co-author with Janet Lowder)., 1979
  • “Mental Health, Mental Health Courts, and Minorities,” chapter in Determinants of Minority Mental Health and Wellness, edited by Sana Loue, Professor and Director, Center for Minority Public Health Case Western Reserve University, (2009), (co-author with Lara Nochomovitz)., 1979

Representative Cases

  • In re Fisher, 313 N.E.2d 851, 1974, Ohio, 1974115061
  • McDuffie v. Berzzarins, 330 N.E.2d 667, 1975, Ohio, 1975115593
  • Rone v. Fireman, 473 F.Supp. 92, 1979, N.D.Ohio, 1979116569
  • State v. Gelichak, 1983 WL 4741, 1983, Ohio App. 8 Dist., 1983004061
  • Levine v. Torvik, 986 F.2d 1506, 1993, C.A.6 (Ohio), 1993058137
  • Clermont County ADAMH Board vs. Hogan et al., 79 Ohio St. 3d 358, 1997, Ohio
  • Knable v. Bexley City School Dist, 238 F.3d 755 , 2001, 6th Cir.
  • CMHS v. MHRB et al, 395 F. Supp. 2d 644 , 2004, S.D. Ohio

Classes & Seminars

  • Lecturer, Law and Psychiatry Law School at Case Western Reserve University , 1988 to 2016
  • Adjunct at Case Western University School of Medicine, Forensic Fellowship Program, 1978 to Present