Franklin J. Hickman

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 the developmentally disabled, and of 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.

AV Preeminent Rated Lawyer

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.

He has represented families in special education cases since 1975 in negotiations, mediation, 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.

Frank has received numerous awards.  He has been named an Ohio Super Lawyer since 2012 and among the Best Lawyers in America since 2014, including Lawyer of the Year honors for Education Law in Cleveland.  In 2018, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Association of County Boards Serving People with Developmental Disabilities.  He was also inducted in the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities Hall of Fame.  In addition, he received the 2006 President’s Award for Partnering in Quality from the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, the Community Service Award from North Coast Community Homes in 2001, and the John Minor Wisdom award for Public Service and Professionalism from the American Bar Association Litigation Section in 1994.

Frank is on the faculty of the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program in the Medical School of Case Western Reserve University.  He also served on the faculty of the CWRU Law School for 27 years. He has presented over 2,000 local, regional, and national seminars and workshops on legal issues relating to mental disability.

Frank is a frequent speaker on topics related to Special Education and Benefits. See our Events Calendar for upcoming speaking engagements.


* AV® Preeminent™ and BV® Distinguished™ are certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies.

Martindale-Hubbell is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the Bar and the Judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.