Monday, January 30, 2012

Can a suspended attorney engage in advocacy if a non-lawyer can do it?

Can a suspended attorney engage in advocacy of a type which is permitted to nonlawyers?  Last year, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania confronted the issue and decided the answer should be NO.

In that case, a suspended lawyer undertook employment representing claimants and employers before the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, a tribunal which allows nonlawyer representation. Disciplinary counsel brought a petition charging Bargeron with contempt, alleging that in representing clients he violated a rule which prohibits a suspended lawyer from law-related activities including “appearing on behalf of a client in any hearing or proceeding or before any judicial officer, arbitrator, mediator, court, public agency, referee, magistrate, hearing officer or any other adjudicative person or body.” In response, the lawyer cited Harkness v. Unemployment Comp. Bd., 920 A.2d 162 (Pa. 2007), in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a nonlawyer who represented claimants before the UCBR was not practicing law.  Confronted with the issue, the Court determined the lawyer was in violation of the rule and ordered him to cease and desist from representing clients before the UCBR.

The case is called In the Matter of Bargeron and it is available here.  More information here.

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