California AB 852 Update

Barbara Liss continues to keep the LinkedIn Paralegal Group informed on developments in California where, as you likely have heard, the Bar Association’s efforts to police the unauthorized practice of law faltered when the legislation was vetoed by Governor Brown only to rise from the ashes in what one political commentator characterized as a “somewhat sneaky action”. Barbara says,

The State Bar just issued/published a summary stating that there is no opposition to AB 852 (a copy of the summary is in my LinkedIn activity — for some reason, I’m not able to attach it here; it’s also available directly at the State Bar’s website: http://board.calbar.ca.gov/docs/agendaItem/Public/agendaitem1000011937.pdf). AB 852 renews the State Bar’s attempt to gain civil penalties for pursuing all non-lawyers for the unauthorized practice of law, not merely rogue immigration consultants or foreclosure scam artists, as addressed in the summary. Once again, the language of AB 852 is broader than the bar’s stated intent.

I understand that the State Bar is frustrated because UPL, although already a criminal offense, is not something it can control directly. It is up to the appropriate prosecutors to make decisions about prosecuting UPL. Many times those prosecutors have crimes they consider more heinous on their minds. I do believe there is merit in protecting the public from UPL, but I remained puzzled and troubled by a proposal that allows an essentially private organization to enforce UPL prohibitions be recovering civil fines. The summary is not clear on the subject, but it appears the fines, which are in addition to the costs of prosecution,  would actually stay with the Bar, not go into the public coffers or to the consumers the Bar purports to be protecting. This seems to make a situation that seems to involve a conflict of interest even more so.

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