To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
This past year, we have focused our efforts under the theme, "Lawyers Helping Lawyers." Toward that end, we have opposed legislation that would harm our profession, and we have championed legislation that would help our profession. We have had many successes this year. As my term draws to a close, I am pleased to inform you of our latest victory.
In June, Governor Paterson signed into law a state bar legislative proposal that will help combat the unlawful practice of law in New York state.The new law will enhance the New York state attorney general's ability to address real estate corruption, larceny and other illegal actions perpetrated by phony lawyers and suspended or disbarred counsel.
A.4300 provides the attorney general with statutory authority to bring both civil and criminal actions against defendants for violations of the judiciary law based on the unlawful practice of law.As highlighted by the case of People v. Romero , 91 N.Y.2d 95, the attorney general previously did not have the authority to investigate and prosecute criminal violations of the judiciary law that address the unlicensed or unauthorized practice of law.
The new law will permit investigation and prosecution of large, multi-jurisdictional violators of the judiciary law who to this point have effectively escaped the current patchwork of county-level prosecution. For example, the law will allow for coordinated, statewide prosecution of illegal real estate closing schemes and programs that defraud unknowing consumers and lenders in our state.
This amendment to the judiciary law is consistent with regulation that enables the attorney general to criminally prosecute violators of the education law that prohibits the unlicensed practice of other professions.
The legislation was initially proposed by the state bar's committee on unlawful practice of law and was passed by the legislature with the strong advocacy of the association's real property law section.
A core mission of the state bar is to represent the interests of the legal profession.This new law is a tool that will help our ongoing efforts to accomplish that goal. I thank those NYSBA members who were involved in initiating our legislative proposal and advocating for enactment of this significant new statute.
Michael E. Getnick