By Amanda Grau
Responsive Law and the Center for Public Interest Law have filed an amicus brief supporting TIKD Services, LLC in a lawsuit brought against the company by the Florida Bar in 2017.
TIKD developed a mobile app giving users an affordable option for fighting unfair traffic tickets. For less than the cost of the ticket, users upload claims for evaluation by TIKD staff then connected with a licensed Florida attorney. If the ticket holds up in court, TIKD absorbs any additional cost accrued.
As the app gained popularity in Florida and took business from the Ticket Clinic, a traditional law firm, the Ticket Clinic filed a complaint. The Florida Bar responded with a baseless claim that TIKD was engaging in unlicensed practice of law (or UPL). In January 2019, the court-appointed referee, Judge Teresa Pooler, released her report in favor of TIKD. The Bar opposed the report and is asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject it with absolutely no evidence of consumer harm. The Ticket Clinic, a Florida law firm, filed an amicus brief supporting the Bar’s opposition. The Bar’s embarrassing claim and the Ticket Clinic’s brief reveal their true fear of losing a monopolistic dominance over legal services.
This case is an opportunity for the Court to step up and make space for new business models that provide better legal access to the underserved. Eighty-percent of consumers in poverty, and a majority of middle-income Americans, are not represented in legal battles directly affecting their lives because legal aid is not accessible. Clearly, the Court recognizes the issue: In 2016, the Court established the Florida Commission on Access to Justice in 2016 to study the unmet legal needs of Floridians and create programs, services, and innovative technological solutions to the problem. New legal services like TIKD are in line with the Court’s own goals.
Allowing TIKD to continue providing accessible services won’t be hard. There is a long history of legal regulators reinterpreting long-held rules to allow new technology. For example, a chain of ethics opinions in the 1960’s banned the use of credit cards to pay attorney’s fees. In 1974, with credit cards’ growing popularity, the interpretation completely flipped to permit credit cards. Today’s story of new technology is no different. Updating archaic practices through new interpretations of old rules is an easy way for the Court to move legal services into the future.
We hope our amicus brief helps the Florida Supreme Court see that truth and decide on the right side of history. We will continue to provide updates as the case moves forward.
Amanda Grau is a Responsive Law legal intern.