Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jailhouse Lawyer Granted Cert. Under Investigation For Unauthorized Practice of Law

Adjunct Prof Blog covered Disciplinary Counsel v. Cotton, 873 N.E. 2d 1240 (Ohio 2007), here, which held that a jailhouse lawyer (an inmate helping another inmate in a legal matter)  was not the unauthorized practice of law- at least where the facilities for other inmates were inadequate. Additionally, on Feb. 7, 2008, we covered the story of a jailhouse lawyer who successfully filed a cert petition, available here. Now Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press is reporting that same jailhouse lawyer is under investigation for the unathorized practice of law. As the article states:

The prison law clerk who convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a fellow inmate's case is being investigated by South Carolina authorities for practicing law without a license, the prisoner's attorney said.

Lawyer Rauch Wise said the state attorney general's office informed him last week they were investigating Michael Ray, a federal inmate in South Carolina.

Ray helped fellow inmate Keith Lavon Burgess appeal his conviction for possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute. In the appeal, which the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on March 24, Burgess is arguing that a prior drug conviction prosecutors used to get him the 20-year minimum prison sentence shouldn't have applied because it was a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

The issue of jailhouse lawyers and the practice of law has been litigated in many cases. Generally, courts uphold this practice by distinguishing between the practice of law and the UNAUTHORIZED practice of law. This will be an important case to watch. Do I sense a retaliatory motive here??

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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Haines v Kerner covers the back against prosecution for unauthorized practice of law by this or any prisoner! I practiced law myself without a license for more than twenty-three years in prison very successfully.

Posted by: rodneyp | Jun 29, 2008 2:29:28 PM

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