CINCINNATI -- By choosing to end her treatment for advanced cervical cancer, Alicia Alexander accepted that she would die. Her plan now, she said, is to "make the best of every day" and help her four children prepare for her departure.
To that end, she paid a lawyer $3,000 up-front to begin putting her affairs in order, handle the future custody of her children and make sure they would have a source of income after her death.
After she made the payment, the line went silent. Alexander said on Monday night she hadn't consistently heard from the attorney since April 3. In the meantime, she's received incorrect documents and excuses in response to her requests for communication.
As far as she can tell, "he's swamped," she said.
"He has a booked schedule or he can't get the other attorney on the phone or the magistrate's out," she said. "I'll call his office, and they'll say he's out of town. He'll say he's been sick. It's never his fault. I know it's not my fault. I don't know what else I can do."
Attorney Cathy Cook, who is not involved in Alexander's case, said it was highly unusual for anyone practicing family law to be as uncommunicative as the attorney in question. Her office "never goes more than a week without an update" for the client, she said, and connects them with multiple lines of contact in case their primary attorney is unavailable.
Alexander's doctors predicted in June she might have as little as a year left to spend with her children and make plans for their futures. She doesn't have time to waste.
For clients like her, Cook said, the only remaining step is to contact the local bar association.
"See if they have any knowledge of anything that could be going wrong, and if they don't, then you're going to have to file what we call a grievance," she said.
Doing so would take even more time that Alexander can't spare, and it could end with her back in the same position: Ill, running out of money and trying to distribute the remains of a fast-ending life.
"I really just want to live every day as best I can, and worry about this stuff every day … it's a burden," she said. "To come up with thousands of dollars all over again just to do something I've already paid to have done is a really bitter pill to swallow."
When WCPO reached out to Alexander's attorney, he said he checks his messages constantly and was handling her case appropriately. However, other clients have made similar complaints about him online. WCPO declined to include his name in this story because he has not been formally disciplined by the Ohio Bar Association or charged with any kind of crime.