Petition To South Carolina Supreme Court Charges Righthaven With Unauthorized Practice Of Law

from the gift-that-keeps-on-giving dept

We just wrote about the effort by one of the people sued by Righthaven to file a massive response with counterclaims. One of those claims was that Righthaven was involved in the unauthorized practice of law in South Carolina. Now, the very same legal team has petitioned the South Carolina State Supreme Court -- which has specifically asked people to petition it on the unauthorized practice of law -- in order to get a declaratory judgment on the issue. The claims in this petition match, pretty much exactly, the claim in the original response lawsuit (with some more detail), but taking it straight to the state Supreme Court is definitely an interesting move.

To be honest, I've always found statutes or rules against "the unauthorized practice of law" to be a bit questionable in general. People should be able to avail themselves of the legal system without a lawyer, if they so choose (even if it's not very smart), and requiring one to become "licensed" has always struck me as much more of a method of limiting supply (and increasing costs), rather than any real attempt to maintain quality. That said, the unauthorized practice of law, remains against the law, and it appears that Righthaven may have to defend itself on this one.

The filing does list out some interesting cases, basically state by state by state by state, that highlight "sham" assignments for the sake of lawsuits, and compares them all to Righthaven... and then notes that Righthaven is worse than almost all of those other cases:
Righthaven is far worse than the debt collectors referenced in the cases cited above. In every single one of those cases, the debt collector at least tried to collect the debt prior to litigation.... But with Righthaven, its first and only act in the collection of alleged debts is to prosecute a lawsuit. That is all Righthaven does and all it ever did. Righthaven is not a debt collector who unintentionally ran afoul of the law of unauthorized practice, Righthaven is an entity set up ab initio for the express purpose of committing the unauthorized practice of law.
Clearly, it seems the lawyers are hoping for a sympathetic ruling here in the South Carolina Supreme Court, which will, in turn, help even further the claims in the original case, that this whole thing is really racketeering. I still think that claim is a long shot, but if this petition actually goes forward, Righthaven may be in a lot more trouble than it had ever imagined.

As with the response in the lawsuit, this petition has some amusing moments. My favorite, concerning Righthaven's continued (and continuing) efforts to rewrite its agreement with Stephens Media to get just enough control to be allowed to sue, the filing mocks the repeated attempts by Righthaven to find the magic words, and says:
It's a wonder Righthaven's pleadings don't end with 'arbracadabra.'
It also later claims: "Righthaven and the truth are not well acquainted." It's always fun when you find a lawyer who's willing to go out on a limb a bit with some humor in these filings, though, certainly, some courts have problems with such cheeky attitudes. Either way, if these lawsuits do well, Righthaven may be in a lot more trouble than people already think it's in.

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  1. icon
    btr1701 (profile), 29 Jun 2011 @ 4:06pm

    Unauthorized Practice

    > I've always found statutes or rules against
    > "the unauthorized practice of law" to be a
    > bit questionable in general. People should
    > be able to avail themselves of the legal
    > system without a lawyer, if they so choose
    > (even if it's not very smart), and requiring
    > one to become "licensed"

    This isn't quite accurate. People *do* have the right to file lasuits and represent themselves in court in both civil and criminal trials. It's called appearing pro se.

    What you can't do, and to which the unauthorized practice of law refers, is represent *other* people as an attorney without being licensed to practice in that jurisdiction.

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