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North Carolina Attorney General Seeks Dismissal of Lawsuit Challenging Unauthorized Legal Practice Rules
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North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has taken a firm stance against a lawsuit filed by a nonprofit organization aimed at preventing the state from enforcing unauthorized legal practice regulations. The lawsuit, brought forth by the North Carolina Justice for All Project and two paralegals, seeks to bar the state from applying these rules to their initiative of offering free and paid legal guidance on filling out court forms for matters like domestic violence, child custody, and small estate administration.

Attorney General’s Motion to Dismiss

In a recent motion to dismiss, Attorney General Stein emphasized that his office does not play a role in enforcing unauthorized practice rules. Instead, he pointed out that such powers are vested in other governmental entities, such as district attorneys and the North Carolina State Bar. The motion underscores that without the threat of prosecution from his office, the plaintiffs lack standing to sue the attorney general directly. Moreover, Stein asserted immunity under the 11th Amendment, highlighting the disconnect between his office and the enforcement of the statutes in question.

Constitutional Free Speech Rights and Access to Justice

The plaintiffs, invoking their constitutional rights under the First Amendment, argue that their initiative aims to bridge the access-to-justice gap for lower-income individuals. By providing simplified legal advice, they contend they are exercising their right to free speech. Attorney Paul Sherman from the Institute for Justice, representing the plaintiffs, stressed the importance of upholding these rights, stating that similar cases across the country have recognized the application of the First Amendment in occupational licensing laws.

  
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Precedents and Similar Cases

This legal battle in North Carolina mirrors similar disputes seen elsewhere. For instance, the Institute for Justice previously represented Upsolve, a nonprofit organization, in a case against the New York attorney general over unauthorized practice rules. In another relevant development, the South Carolina Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the state’s NAACP branch, allowing them to train non-lawyer volunteers to offer limited legal advice to tenants facing eviction.

For the plaintiffs: Paul Sherman of the Institute for Justice; and Vince Eisinger of Cranfill Sumner
For North Carolina: Carl Newman of the North Carolina Department of Justice

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