Franklin J. Hickman is a shareholder in the law firm of Hickman & Lowder Co. L.P.A.. Since his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1973 he has focused his career on legal issues affecting persons with mental disabilities. During nine years as a member of the law reform unit of the Legal Aid Society he brought numerous federal class actions to improve conditions in Ohio state institutions. Since going into private practice in 1981, he has represented persons with disabilities, families with members who are mentally impaired as well as agencies and county boards throughout the state which provide services to persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities. He has successfully represented parents in cases under IDEA since 1975 when the original Federal legislation was passed. He was counsel for Michael Levine in State v. Levine 986 F. 2d 1506 (1993) which established rights of persons found not guilty by reason of insanity and Knable v. Bexley City School Dist. 238 F.3d 755 (6th Cir. 2001) which clarified scope of rights of children to free appropriate public education and required school district to pay costs of out-of-state residential services. More recently, he was trial attorney for the Belmont-Harrison-Monroe MHRS Board in CMHS v. MHRB et al. 395 F. Supp. 2d 644 (S.D. Ohio 2004), aff'd 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 19940 (6th Cir.) in which the court recognized 11th amendment and legislative immunity for ADAMH Boards.
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.
In the past 40 plus years Mr. Hickman has presented over 2,000 seminars and workshops on legal issues relating to mental disabilities. He was a speaker at the 1998 national institute on special education law, the 1998 training for Ohio Department of Education's Impartial Hearing Officers. He was on the national board of the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA) for 15 years and presented at COPAA conferences from 1999 through the present. As part of the COPAA conferences he developed a series of intensive skills training workshops for attorneys in special education.
Mr. Hickman has received numerous awards, including the John Minor Wisdom award for Public Service and Professionalism from the American Bar Association Litigation Section in 1994 and the Community Service Award from North Coast Community Homes in 2001. In 2012 he was inducted into Cuyahoga County Board of DD Hall of Fame. He has been included among Ohio Super Lawyers for public sector law and Best Lawyers in America for Education Law. In 2018, Best Lawyers in America name him 2018 "Lawyer of the Year" in the area of Education Law.