Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Unauthorized Practice of Law

Earlier this week, I was watching a live webcast of oral arguments in Conaway v. Deane, Maryland's same-sex marriage case. You can read the briefs here and watch the video archive here, in case you're interested. I happened to leave the webcast running through the next case, In the Matter of the Application of --- for Admission to the Bar of Maryland. (The applicant's name, along with the video archive, are online, should you care to look for them--my spider/legal sense tells me it's unnecessary to repeat them here.)

The Court of Appeals of Maryland, like most state high courts, is in charge of admissions to the state bar. While the day-to-day work is delegated to the Maryland Board of Bar Examiners, anyone denied admission by the Board has the right to argue his case before the Court.

In this instance, the gentleman's application had been denied on a Board finding that he had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Maryland. (The domestic violence, not paying child support, and revocation of his Florida license didn't help.) But he had a defense to this allegation: he hadn't really been practicing law. Yes, his two-person law firm bore the applicant's name, and yes, he did see clients. But, he claimed, his Maryland-licensed partner was handling all the legal work. Pending admission, the applicant claimed, his sole function at the firm was to lay hands on the clients and heal them through the power of Jesus Christ.

I kid you not.

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