Florida Supreme Court: "We'd Really Like To Help You, But We Just Can't. Only the Florida Supreme Court Can Help You."
by Tom Gordon
Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that TIKD, an app that helped people affordably fight traffic tickets, was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. If you want to read legal arguments about why TIKD's service does not fall under UPL laws, you should read Responsive Law's amicus brief in the case, as well as the dissenting opinion to the court's decision. But the bigger issue here is not the legal standard for UPL; it's the system that continues to maintain those laws as a weapon against consumer choice, while claiming they are a shield to protect consumers.
by Kaylee Willis
Children with disabilities have specific and unique needs when it comes to their education. Though the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) makes it so that all children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education designed to meet their unique needs, there are still many families that struggle to get the services the act entitles them to. The act makes appropriate evaluations, individualized educational plans (IEP), least restrictive environments, and parental participation the right of each special needs child. However, school boards often try to spend as little as possible on providing for children with disabilities, so parents must rely on the legal system to make sure schools provides for their children's needs.
Since lawyers are prohibitively expensive, making it difficult for qualified professionals to participate in the process leaves families with no affordable options for legal guidance. In September, the New Jersey Supreme Court Ethics Committee released an opinion that would make it even more difficult for families to get appropriate help from experts concerning their child’s special educational needs. In response, we submitted a comment which resulted in the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law superseding that opinion with one that answered many of our requests.
by Paul Avelar
As has been previously discussed here, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has been considering recommendations from its own Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee in three cases involving real-estate closings and related services. The Court has issued its decision, and it is mostly a victory for consumers.
by Amanda Grau
TIKD, an application that enables users to be paired with an attorney based on an uploaded traffic ticket they wish to contest, has been embroiled in antitrust and unauthorized practice of law (UPL) litigation since 2017. In January 2019, there was a major win for the app and Christopher Riley, the app’s developer: the referee, appointed by the Florida Supreme Court as the court’s finder of fact for the UPL lawsuit, released a report in favor of TIKD. The report now goes to the Florida Supreme Court for adoption or rejection.
The referee, Judge Pooler, stated that although it is undisputed that TIKD is not authorized to practice law in Florida, TIKD is not a law firm nor a lawyer referral service and its operations did not involve UPL. “No reasonable person could conclude, based on the evidence submitted to the Referee, that TIKD or Riley hold themselves out as providers of legal services,” said Judge Pooler. Despite the positive ruling, TIKD has decided to suspend consumer traffic ticket services, perhaps in an effort to avoid future litigation. This is a blow to consumers looking for affordable legal support when dealing with unjust traffic tickets.
Tennessee and Washington Consider Regulations Restricting the Operations of Online Legal Document Preparers
by Madison Swanson
State bar associations continue to threaten the operations of online legal document providers under the guise of consumer protection through restrictive and unnecessary rules. The states of Washington and Tennessee have both considered resolutions that would impose expensive obligations and strict regulations on OLPs operating in their states.
Tennessee House Bill 1411, proposed in February 2019, states that online document providers are not considered to be practicing law so long as they follow the regulations laid out in the resolution. The regulations, however, were incredibly strict, expensive, and unnecessary. They would greatly raise the price the consumer pays for the same products and services. Thanks to pressure from Responsive Law and our allies, HB 1411 was withdrawn from consideration.
Amendments to General Rule 24 proposed by the Washington State Practice of Law Board (POLB), however, still stands and is open for comment until the end of August. The General Rules of the Washington State Bar dictate the general conduct of courts and lawyers, and Rule 24 defines the practice of law. This amendment, unlike HB 1411, doesauthorize the activities of online legal document preparers as the practice of law so long as they follow the regulations laid out in the potential new rule. The regulations the Washington POLB proposes are again unnecessary and would threaten the growth, profitability, and usefulness to the consumer of these document providers.
Read HB 1411 here and the GR 24 amendment here.