Proposed Sup. Ct. Rule to Forbide Suspended Lawyers to Work as Paralegals Criticized
Pat Harris expresses her opposition to proposed amendment to Supreme Court Rules which would bar suspended or disbarred lawyers from ever working as a paralegal for a lawyer. You can express your opinion on this proposed rule by contacting the Supreme Court Rules Committee. Justice Venters is the Chairman of this committee.
August 10, 2011 Supreme Court of Kentucky Capitol Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Re: opposition to proposed SCR 3.130 (5.7
I am writing in opposition to proposed SCR 3.130(5.7). The proposed rule provides that suspended and disbarred lawyers not be allowed to assist lawyers except as secretaries, not be allowed to perform work that people who were never members of the bar are allowed to perform. A first year law student, college student, anyone can assist a lawyer if the lawyer is willing to hire him.
The only people who will not be able to assist lawyers are those who have been suspended or disbarred. It is unfair to single out this group and prohibit them from doing what every other person is allowed to do.
Please consider, as an example, the plight of suspended attorneys who because of illness could not pay bar dues, waiver of dues was denied (this could have been before due process procedures were adopted for waiver of dues), and they were suspended for non-payment of dues.
Because they did not have funds to pay bar dues and other fees connected with reinstatement, they are reduced to assisting lawyers in good standing. They have had the right to practice taken away and now, perhaps years after the suspension, you propose to take away their right even to assist lawyers. Is this not an unlawful taking as well as an unfair taking?
A suspended or disbarred lawyer has already had his right to practice law taken from him as punishment, perhaps only for being poor. He can no longer call himself a lawyer because he no longer has the right to practice law.
He cannot advise clients, go to court, sign pleadings, briefs, complaints, or other court documents. All he can do is assist a lawyer just as any other assistant is allowed to do. The attorney for whom he works must review, edit, take responsibility for, and sign (after approval) of the finished work. The finished work is that of the attorney, not of his assistant no matter who the assistant is.
Now, after the imposition of disbarment or suspension (and without notification at the time of disbarment or suspension), the court proposes taking another right away — the universal right to work as an assistant to a lawyer.
In suspending or disbarring a lawyer, the Court takes away the right to practice law, a right granted by the Court when a law student passes the Kentucky Bar Exam. The right to assist lawyers is not something granted by the Supreme Court.
The Court cannot take away something it did not grant. Is it possible that the proposed rule is not only unfair but also unconstitutional? The proposed rule also punishes attorneys in good standing by prohibiting them from hiring whomever they want to assist them. The proposed rule provides that they may employ anybody except a suspended or disbarred lawyer.
If a lawyer is willing to accept responsibility for the work performed, he should be able to hire a suspended lawyer as well as his twenty-year-old nephew who dropped out of high school. Yours truly, Pat Harris