June 14, 2012
STATE BAR ASSOCIATION URGES STATE TO PROTECT
THOSE WHO FALSELY REPRESENT THEMSELVES AS ATTORNEYS
New York State should toughen the law to protect innocent New Yorkers
who suffer serious harm caused by individuals who falsely represent
themselves as lawyers, State Bar Association President Seymour W. James,
Jr. said today.
“Individuals who fraudulently hold themselves out as attorneys
can and do cause serious harm to their unsuspecting victims. Potential
consequences for victims can include jail time, loss of child custody,
deportation and other financial hardships,” said James of New York
City (The Legal Aid Society). The poor and immigrants are most
frequently targeted, he said.
Consumers should be protected from unscrupulous individuals who
fraudulently claim to be licensed professionals. This is recognized in
state law which makes it a felony to impersonate a doctor, dentist,
veterinarian, chiropractor, social worker, accountant, landscape
architect, court stenographer or many other professionals. However,
impersonating an attorney is only a misdemeanor in New York, even if the
consumer is seriously harmed.
A bill (S.1998A/A.5700A) would make it a Class E felony when someone
engages in the unauthorized practice of law and thereby causes someone
else to suffer monetary loss exceeding $1,000, or other significant
damage resulting from impairment of a consumer’s legal right.
The bill has been passed by the Senate and recently was reported out
of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
“This important legislation will protect New Yorkers from
unscrupulous predators. We commend the Senate for passing the bill and
urge the Assembly to follow suit and send it to the Governor for his
signature,” James said.
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest
voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in