The Law Firm of Higbee & Associates, which operates Recordgone.com, scored a major victory today in the fight against non-attorneys engaging in the unauthorized practice of law by offering expungement related services. The victory comes in the form of a published California appeals case that makes clear that attorneys can, in some instances, sue non-attorneys for unauthorized practice of law.
The California Court of Appeals published its ruling in Law Offices of Mathew Higbee v. Expungement Assistance Services.
The case may be of special importance to lawyers, said attorney Cynthia Underwood, one of the attorneys who worked on the case. “This case also makes it clear that lawyers can sue those who are engaging in unauthorized practice of law,” said Underwood. “Unauthorized practice of law is a wide-spread problem that law enforcement cannot effectively prevent it by itself. This case will allow attorneys to assist the public and protect their law practices by filing lawsuits to stop unauthorized practice of law.”
This case stems from a California Superior Court case, filed in January of 2008, where a law firm, The Law Offices of Mathew Higbee, sued a Kentucky based business, Expungement Assistance Services (EAS), for unlawful acts, including fraud and the unauthorized practice of law. The Law Offices of Mathew Higbee, which later became the Law Firm of Higbee & Associates, operates RecordGone.com. Expungement Assistance Services (which later became EAS Technologies LLC), operated ClearMyRecord.com (which later became ShredMyRecord.com).
Higbee alleged that the fraudulent and unlawful acts by Expungement Assistance Services were hurting consumers as well as the law firm.
The trial court ruled that the law did not allow a plaintiff who had no business dealing with defendant to sue the defendant. The Court of Appeals unanimously disagreed with the trial court, and even directed the clerk of the court to send a copy of the opinion to the Attorney General, presumably for law enforcement action.
The published opinion can be found at http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/G046778.PDF