Category Archives: Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law (UPL)

U.S. DOJ files Statement in TIKD in federal lawsuit arguing that Florida Bar is not immune from Sherman antitrust allegations

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert Update which will discuss the recent (March 12, 2018) Statement of Interest filed by the United States Department of Justice arguing that The Florida Bar is not immune or exempt from antitrust under the Sherman Antitrust Act based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission.  The case is TIKD Services LLC, v. The Florida Bar, et al., Case No. 1:17-cv-24103-MGC (U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida-Miami Division).  The Statement of Interest is available on the PACER federal document system here:  https://www.pacer.gov/login.html (subscription required).

As I previously blogged, TIKD Services, LLC filed the federal lawsuit against The Florida Bar, the Ticket Clinic law firm, and other individuals in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida on November 8, 2017.  The TIKD app allows an individual who has received a traffic citation to upload a photo of the citation and pay a fixed fee and TIKD retains an attorney to represent that individual.  If the individual receives points against his or her license, TIKD refunds the payment and pays the cost of the ticket.  The business model is based on the fact that contested traffic tickets are often dismissed or a lower fine is assessed and, since TIKD deals in volume, it can charge a lower price than a lawyer who is separately retained by the individual.

The Florida Bar issued a staff opinion finding that lawyers who work with TIKD and similar programs could be in violation of Florida Bar disciplinary rules, including fee splitting and interference with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment.  A complaint was filed with The Florida Bar by members of the law firm alleging that TIKD was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL).  That complaint is currently pending and the Bar has recommended further proceedings.

TIKD then filed the federal lawsuit court alleging conspiracy, restraint of trade, tortious interference with business relationships, and antitrust violations.  The defendants include The Florida Bar, attorney Mark S. Good, who founded The Ticket Clinic law firm, and other individuals.  According to the federal Complaint, The Florida Bar advised TIKD that it was opening an unlicensed practice of law investigation into the company’s activities after the company was featured in a Miami Herald story and a few months later, attorneys with The Ticket Clinic threatened to report two of TIKD’s lawyers to The Florida Bar if they continued to work with TIKD.

A state lawsuit was filed and was settled; however, TIKD alleges in the federal Complaint that The Florida Bar and the Ticket Clinic law firm continued to make a “concerted effort” to put it out of business, and that the firm’s lawyers continued filing “baseless ethics complaints” against attorneys who represent TIKD customers.

A recent (February 21, 2018) Motion for Sanctions filed by the Ticket Clinic law firm alleged, inter alia, that The Florida Bar has immunity, which immunized the individual defendants, that the individuals have immunity on other grounds, that the lawsuit is frivolous on other grounds, and that the lawsuit should be dismissed and the Plaintiffs should be sanctioned.

On March 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest stating that The Florida Bar is not immune from federal or state antitrust liability under the Sherman Act as an arm of the state based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission.  According to the statement:

“The Florida Bar defendants assert, as one ground for their motion to dismiss, that they are entitled to protection against Sherman Act claims by the state-action doctrine of Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943), without having to satisfy either the “clear articulation” or “active supervision” requirements of that doctrine. That position is incorrect. The Supreme Court’s most recent state-action decision, N. Carolina State Bd. of Dental Examiners v. FTC, 135 S. Ct. 1101 (2015), clarified the state-action doctrine with respect to state agencies that regulate learned professions. It requires that the Bar, if “controlled by active market participants,” id. at 1114, must satisfy the clear articulation and active supervision requirements in order to obtain state-action protection.”

Bottom line:  As I have previously blogged, this is one of the first cases filed in Florida (and possible in any jurisdiction) which directly alleges that a State Bar’s procedures violate the Sherman Antitrust Act in reliance upon the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission.  The Statement of Interest filed by the U.S. Department of Justice agrees with that analysis and argues that it is correct.  Stay tuned…

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeier

about.me/corsmeierethicsblogs

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Attorney Ethics, Bar antitrust, Bar regulation and antitrust, BAR UPL antitrust, Florida Bar, Florida Bar TIKD antitrust lawsuit, Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer antitrust, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law (UPL), Lawyer assisting UPL, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, North Carolina Dental Board, North Carolina dental whitening case and UPL, TIKD UPL Bar request for Florida Supreme Court injunction, TIKD US DOJ Statement of Interest no Bar immunity, TIKD v Florida Bar Motion for Sanctions, TIKD v. Florida Bar antitrust federal lawsuit, U.S. Constitution and UPL regulation- professional speech and application of UPL rules, U.S. Supreme Court

Florida Bar’s Board of Governors votes to request the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether TIKD activities are UPL

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent media reports that the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors has voted to request that the Florida Supreme Court determine whether TIKD’s app and activities constitute the unlicensed practice of law (UPL).  As I previously blogged, TIKD filed a federal lawsuit against The Florida Bar and The Ticket Clinic in November 2017 alleging, inter alia, a conspiracy to force it to cease its business activities and that The Florida Bar’s procedures violate the antitrust laws under the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission.

The federal case is TIKD Services LLC, v. The Florida Bar, et al., Case No. 1:17-cv-24103-MGC (U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida-Miami Division) and I blogged about the TIKD federal lawsuit here: https://jcorsmeier.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/startup-app-tikd-sues-florida-bar-for-alleged-antitrust-violations-florida-bar-moves-to-disqualify-former-president-from-case/, and here: https://jcorsmeier.wordpress.com/2017/12/21/florida-bars-former-president-responds-and-opposes-bars-motion-to-disqualify-him-from-tikd-v-florida-bar-ticket-clinic-antitrust-suit/

According to media reports, at its December 2017 meeting, the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors accepted a recommendation from a Bar committee which concluded that TIKD is violating Florida law by practicing law without a license or providing false or misleading information to its customer to send the matter to the Florida Supreme Court for review and a potential injunction.

The BOG decision appears to have resulted, at least in part, from the federal lawsuit which was filed in November 2017 by TIKD, an entity with an internet application that assists individuals who receive traffic tickets by retaining a lawyer and promises its users that they will not get any points on their traffic record.  The company’s lawsuit against The Florida Bar and The Ticket Clinic alleges that The Ticket Clinic and The Florida Bar are conspiring to reduce competition, that The Ticket Clinic has made threats to TIKD lawyers, that the Bar’s procedures violate antitrust laws, and that TIKD has been deprived of revenue as a result of the conduct.

According to the federal lawsuit and media reports, The Ticket Clinic, a law firm that provides legal services and defends clients in traffic ticket matters, filed complaints with The Florida Bar claiming that TIKD is engaging in UPL, and also filed complaints against lawyers who have represented TIKD customers and has threatened to have them disbarred.

Bottom line:  As I previously blogged, the TIKD federal lawsuit is one of the first filed in Florida which directly alleges that The Florida Bar’s UPL procedures violate the Sherman Antitrust Act based upon the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners and, as added drama, the Bar filed a motion to disqualify its recent former president from representing TIKD in the lawsuit.  Now, The Florida Bar will ask the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in and provide a determination as to whether the TIKD app runs afoul of UPL and other Bar rules.

Again, stay tuned…and be careful out there!

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeier

about.me/corsmeierethicsblogs

Leave a comment

Filed under BAR UPL antitrust, Florida Bar, Florida Bar TIKD antitrust lawsuit, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer antitrust, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law (UPL), Lawyer assisting UPL, Lawyer independent professional judgment- AVVO and matching services, North Carolina Dental Board, North Carolina dental whitening case and UPL, TIKD UPL Bar request for Florida Supreme Court injunction, TIKD v. Florida Bar antitrust federal lawsuit, TIKD v. Florida Bar motion to disqualify ex-president, Unlicensed practice of law, Unlicensed practice of law antitrust lawsuit

Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspends lawyer for 2 years for assisting UPL, improperly accessing CM/ECF, and making false statements

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court Order approving the Report and Recommendations of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board and suspending a lawyer for 2 years for, inter alia, aiding the unlicensed practice of law, improperly accessing the bankruptcy court’s CM/ECF system, and making false statements when he was confronted with the allegations.  The case is Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. William Nivan Renwick, No. 2146 Disc. Docket No. 3, No. 153 DB 2013  (Pa. SC May 14, 2015).  The link to the SC Order and Report and Recommendations are here: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/DisciplinaryBoard/out/153DB2013-Renwick.pdf.

According to the March 12, 2015 Report and Recommendations of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board, the lawyer, who had been practicing for more than 30 years, appeared at hearings and creditor meeting for “several” of a suspended lawyer’s clients and filed documents with U.S. Western District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Court CM/ECF system by using the suspended lawyer’s electronic filing account number.  The lawyer also changed the name on the suspended lawyer’s CM/ECF account twice, once in December 2007 to the name of a lawyer who was not licensed to practice, and a second time in November 2009 to his own name.

The Report further states that the lawyer did not have the required training to use the CM/ECF system and improperly used the suspended lawyer’s account.  At a hearing held in August 2012, the chief judge of the bankruptcy court ordered the CM/ECF account closed and required the lawyer to send notices to the those involved in his cases stating that his authorization to file documents on the system had been terminated.

When the chief judge asked the lawyer where worked at the hearing, he told the judge he had been “working in the other office in whatever it is, Altoona or whatever”, which was a false statement.  The lawyer was then suspended from practice before the District Court.  According to the Report, “(n)ot only did (the lawyer) assist (the suspended lawyer) in the unauthorized practice of law, his own practice was in violation of the federal rules because he didn’t obtain his own identification number. When asked about his practices, (the lawyer) told the judge he practiced in the office of Augusto Delerme in Altoona.”  The Pennsylvanoa Supreme Court upheld the Board’s recommendation and suspended the lawyer for 2 years

Bottom line:  This lawyer apparently was trying to help a suspended lawyer; however, he failed dismally in his attempts and he also made some misleading/false statements at the hearing before the chief judge along the way.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, Attorney misrepresentation, dishonesty, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law (UPL), Lawyer assisting UPL, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer false statements, Lawyer sanctions, Unauthorized practice of law