Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Supreme Court of Montana has responded to a petition by its Commission on the Unauthorized Practice of Law by entering an opinion and order dissolving the commission effective April 20, 2010. The original petition had proposed rule changes that were submitted for public comment. The court noted that an array of persons and organizations had filed "voluminous, thoughtful comments...Indeed, we cannot recall a matter on which there has been more comment by members of the public on a matter before [the court]."
The committee had responded to the comments by filing a motion to dissolve under an agreement that has complaints of unauthorized practice handled by the state Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection. Lawyers who are licensed elsewhere will be referred to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel by the Attorney General.
The court concluded (contrary, I believe, to the holdings of many state high courts) that it lacks the authority to regulate or even define the unauthorized practice of law. Further, the parameters of unauthorized practice are not clearly defined ("...we are mindful of the movement towards nationalization and globalization of the practice of law, and with the actions taken by federal authorities against state attempts to localize, monopolize, regulate, or restrict the interstate or international provision of legal services.").
The court commended the commission for it's "excellent, and often frustrating, work..." along with the State Bar and Attorney General for establishing a "better way for handling complaints of unauthorized practice."