By Gordon Davis
Many opposing attorneys have bullied legal advocates with the threat of “practicing law without a license.”
The issue has come up in several of the cases I am working on:
In my lawsuit against Turtleboy, his lawyer, Margaret Melican, threatened to have me investigated for practicing law without a license.
Melican’s threat was hollow, as the venues in which I practice do not have a requirement of being a lawyer to represent clients. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) allows non-attorneys to practice through the initial investigation. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and respective Housing Authorities do not require representatives of clients to be lawyers.
As a rule, all courts whether State or Federal, require representatives of clients to be lawyers. Of course, a person can represent himself as pro se. For both of my cases, Davis vs. Turtleboy, and Gaffney vs. Davis, I am a pro se party.
A lawyer’s value is found in his knowledge of court rules and legal concepts.
It is easy to confuse evidence with a charge or count. For example, in State courts denial of Federal FMLA cannot be a charge – but it can be evidence of bias. What lay person is familiar with the Courts’ rules for Interrogatories and their one year cutoff date?
Once, during an Investigative Conference at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) a lawyer for United Parcel Service (UPS) asserted to the Hearing Officer that I should not be allowed to represent my client. The Hearing Officer ignored him. The lawyer made the assertion a second time, and then the Hearing Officer said the Commission allows non-attorneys at this stage of proceedings.
It came up again today when I joined a blockade of a bank auction of a foreclosed house. The main organizer, Lori, told me of how a bank attorney shouted in court that she would face criminal charges for practicing law without a license. She was not sitting at the Defendant’s table, but in gallery.
The bank’s attorney was practicing intimidation and bullying.
For all of the cases in which the Worcester Anti Foreclosure Team (WAFT) supports homeowners, the homeowners are pro se. They represent themselves.
According to Lori, the banks’ attorneys have declared war on WAFT.
Why, I wondered, as the banks’ attorneys get paid either way. She said that with the approximately 34 cases of foreclosures being defended by pro se homeowners, the banks’ attorneys have to work harder and make relatively less money.
The law about licensed lawyers is applicable to disbarred attorneys or to someone who falsely represents themselves as an attorney.
I am not an attorney.
It has been my experience that there is a courtesy that other court officers extend to lawyers that is not extended to pro se parties. Many lawyers call each other “brother” or “sister.” If you are pro se, expect to face disrespect. I recall a case in which I shipped a box of papers to an attorney. The papers in the box were not stamped with a number, and I asked that the box be shipped back to me. My adversary refused and told me to come and get the papers. So I had to go to Boston and get a 40-pound box of papers.
I suppose all is fair in love and law.