Provides that actions by the attorney general for unlawful practice of law shall be construed to include both civil and criminal actions; makes conforming changes.
BILL NUMBER: S5445
TITLE OF BILL :
An act to amend the judiciary law, in relation to actions for unlawful practice of law
To amend Section 476-b of the Judiciary Law to specify that the Attorney General is authorized to bring both civil and criminal actions against defendants for the unlawful practice of law.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS :
Section 476-a of the Judiciary Law would be amended to specify that the term "action" includes both civil and criminal actions.
Section 476-b would be amended to apply exclusively to civil actions.
The New York State Court of Appeals in PEOPLE V. ROMERO (decided July 1, 1998) held that Judiciary Law Section 476-a does not authorize the Attorney General to bring a criminal action against a defendant for the unlawful practice of law. Rather, in the opinion of the Court, the section authorizes only civil actions. This causes concern because, in recent years, criminal prosecutions have been undertaken, with few exceptions, by the Attorney General alone. It appears to be the policy of most district attorneys to charge unlawful practice of law only when such activity is integrally related to some form of grand larceny. As long as this continues to be the prevailing policy of the district attorneys, the practical effect of ROMERO will be to deny any criminal enforcement or penal liability for falsely holding oneself out as an attorney and engaging in the unlicensed practice of law.
The bill is designed to encourage the Attorney General and the various district attorneys to coordinate their efforts and share responsibility for the enforcement of the Judiciary Law as it pertains to the unlawful practice of law. In this way, the public would realize a greater degree of protection from unlicensed practitioners and more uniform statewide enforcement of UPL laws would be accomplished.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :
A.2181/S.791 of 2007-2008 Reported to Rules/Senate Rules A.677/S.40 of 2005-2006 Reported to Codes/Senate Rules A.1064/S.1484 of 2003-2004 Reported to Codes/Senate Rules
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :
EFFECTIVE DATE : Immediately.