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Arizona Senate Bill No. 1055 proposing an expanded role for paralegals and criminalizing the unauthorized practice of law was introduced in January 1995. The tasks that would be permitted to be performed by paralegals include providing assistance and filing forms in uncontested default dissolutions not involving a minor child; enforcing or modifying support orders; health care powers of attorney; living wills; changes of name; creation of entities as provided in various sections; affidavits for transfer of title to real property or for collection of personal property; and affidavits evidencing termination of joint tenancy or life estate.
NFPA offered testimony to the Arizona Senate in support of the proposed legislation. At NFPA's suggestion, S.B. 1055 was amended to establish a committee to study the issues involved and include paralegals on the Committee. The Joint Select Study Committee on the Civil Justice System Committee will conduct studies to justify Arizona's future recommendations on methods to increase access to quality legal services, decrease delays in the legal system, ascertain the incidence and impact of frivolous lawsuits, and, most importantly, consider affordable and effective alternatives to traditional legal representation in Arizona. Significantly, NFPA's suggestion to include paralegals in the Committee composition was included in the amended bill which passed the Senate in February.
The engrossed bill is scheduled for a hearing before the Arizona House Committee on the Judiciary.
Maryland House Bill 1345, introduced February 24, 1995, adds exemptions from the requirement that only individuals who are admitted to the State Bar may practice law in the State. Exemptions include those individuals who work in specified domestic violence programs, provide services on a pro bono basis, have received specified training, have had specified experience in working with domestic violence victims, and provide to victims of domestic violence specified information and assistance.
NFPA submitted testimony in favor of this bill in March 1995.
Last February, the Minnesota State Supreme Court briefed the State legislature about implementing a registration program for paralegals. NFPA and the Minnesota Association of Legal Assistants provided comments about the regulatory program to the Supreme Court.
The State Bar of Montana submitted a petition to the State Supreme Court requesting the creation of rules and guidelines for regulating the paralegal profession. The petition outlined a proposal for mandatory certification in which the State Bar would be given full authority for the program. In March 1995, NFPA filed comments opposing the State Bar's proposal in its current form.
On March 13, 1995, the Supreme Court modified its holding In Re Opinion No. 26 of the committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law, stating that the practice of conducting residential real estate closing or settlements without the presence of attorneys to represent the seller and the buyer shall not constitute the unauthorized practice of law so long as the broker conforms to specific conditions the broker must notify both the buyer and seller of the conflicting interest of brokers and title companies in these matters and of the general risk involved in not being represented by an attorney. If the conditions are not met, the broker and title officer, if the latter is aware of the broker's failure to meet the conditions, are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Attorneys with that knowledge who participate in the transaction are guilty of unethical conduct. The decision will become effective sixty days from the date of the opinion.
New York City Bar Association
A conclusion of the Committee on Professional Responsibility regarding prohibitions on nonlawyer practice was that no bar per se should select forms of nonlawyer practice, that the market forces should operate freely, but that some form of regulatory oversight must protect the pubic. (See the National Paralegal Reporter for more information.)
Washington Senate Bill 5380 about licensing legal assistants under the direction and supervision of Washington State Bar Association members has not passed by the committee and is now dead.
NFPA and the Washington State Paralegal Association filed testimony on this bill.
From The National Federation of Paralegal Associations
Post Office Box 33108 Kansas City, Missouri 64114
Tel.: 816-941-4000 Fax : 816-941-2725
[I-L Note: This is an excellent organization who could use your support. Check out their Web Site at http://www.paralegals.org]
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