Monday, June 7, 2010

Georgia Lawyers Exempt From Debt Practices investigation

A majority of the Georgia Supreme Court held today that the Administrator of the state's Fair Business Practices Act has no authority to compel a law firm engaged in debt collection on behalf of creditors to comply with his investigative demands. The majority found that

...the nature of ...representation of clients in a legal capacity is not destroyed by the utilization of "staffing, training, equipment or support personnel." (citation omitted) Indeed, the manner in which such support is used and managed in the representation of clients is part of the actual practice of law and, therefore, does not involve the entrepreneurial or commercial aspects of professional practice within the contemplation of the [Act].

Justice Melton, joined by Justices Hines and Nahmias, dissented:

Because the [Act] is a law of general application that has nothing to do with impermissibly regulating the practice of law in violation of separation of powers, I must respectfull dissent from the majority's erroneous conclusion  that the remedies relating to [the law firm's] allegedly abusive debt collection practices "must be found outside the [Act]." (quoting the majority) Investigating violations of the law that happen to involve lawyers does not automatically amount to impermissibly "regulating" the practice of law, as a lawyer who violates the law is just as subject to investigation as any other common offender.

(Mike Frisch)

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