New York asks court to allow state to control nonprofit’s legal advice program


  • Nonprofit Upsolve won a preliminary injunction bid in May
  • New York Attorney General’s office asks appeals court to overturn decision
  • Upsolve seeks to train non-lawyer volunteers to offer limited legal advice to debt collection defendants

(Reuters) – New York’s attorney general has asked an appeals court to reverse a ruling that prevented the state from enforcing rules against the unauthorized practice of law against a nonprofit that wants to provide limited legal advice to poor New Yorkers.

A Manhattan federal judge was wrong to rule in May that Upsolve Inc had standing to sue and that the state’s attorney license requirement should be subject to a heightened standard of review under the 1st Amendment, the Letitia James office Told the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty’s ruling in May barred James’ office from enforcing the rules against the program planned by Upsolve, which aims to train people who are not lawyers to provide free, limited legal advice to Low-income New Yorkers facing debt collection lawsuits.

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Crotty argued that state rules on the unauthorized practice of law cannot be applied to Upsolve’s program “because the First Amendment protects their legal advice as speech, and UPL’s rules do not are not narrowly tailored to pass strict scrutiny in this context”.

Upsolve CEO Rohan Pavuluri said in an email Thursday that the May court ruling “did something no court in United States history has ever done” in its 1st amendment. Upsolve believes their win will be confirmed “and we’re looking forward to our day in the second circuit,” he said.

On the 1st Amendment issue, the Attorney General’s office argued in its filing that unauthorized law practice statutes are not subject to strict scrutiny because the rules “regulate the conduct of the practice of law and have at most an incidental and neutral effect on non-lawyers’ speech.”

Even so, the rules are likely to survive any level of 1st Amendment scrutiny applied because they serve the government’s interests in regulating the practice of law, the office said.

The office also challenged Upsolve’s training materials and argued that stopping “the unauthorized practice of law is the only way to ensure plaintiffs don’t put low-income New Yorkers at risk.” of an unauthorized practice of law”.

The trial court case, filed by Upsolve and co-plaintiff Reverend John Udo-Okon, a South Bronx pastor, generated support for Upsolve from civil rights groups and of law professors and opposition to the group’s efforts by New York civil legal service organizations and others.

The case is Upsolve Inc v. James, 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-1345

For Upsolve and Udo-Okon: Robert Niles-Weed, Greg Silbert and Zachary Tripp from Weil, Gotshal & Manges

For James: Cleland Welton of the New York State Attorney General’s Office

Read more:

New York nonprofit can help debtors without breaking rules of legal practice, judge says

NYC legal organizations oppose nonprofit’s plan to advise on debt collection law

NAACP and faculty seek to support nonprofit in lawsuit against free legal advice program

Non-profit organization sues NY AG over rules of practice in attempt to provide free legal advice

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