New York asks court to allow state to police nonprofit’s legal advice program

  • Nonprofit Upsolve won preliminary injunction bid in May
  • New York Attorney General’s Office asks appeals court to reverse ruling
  • Upsolve seeks to train non-lawyer volunteers to offer limited legal advice to debt collection defendants

(Reuters) – New York’s attorney general has asked an appeals court to overturn a ruling that blocked the state from enforcing rules against the unauthorized practice of law against a nonprofit that wants to provide limited legal advice to poor New Yorkers.

A Manhattan federal judge was wrong to rule in May that Upsolve Inc had standing to sue and that the state’s attorney-licensing requirement should be held to a heightened standard of review under the 1st Amendment, Letitia James’ office told the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

US District Judge Paul Crotty’s May decision barred James’s office from enforcing the rules against Upsolve’s planned program, which aims to train people who are not lawyers to provide free, limited legal advice to low-income New Yorkers facing debt-collection lawsuits.

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Crotty held that the state unauthorized practice of law rules cannot be applied to Upsolve’s program “because the First Amendment protects their legal advice as speech, and the UPL rules are not narrowly tailored to satisfy strict scrutiny in this context.”

Upsolve CEO Rohan Pavuluri said in an email Thursday that the May court ruling “did something that no court in the history of the United States has ever done” in its 1st Amendment holding. Upsolve believes its win will be upheld “and we look forward to our day in the Second Circuit,” he said.

On the 1st Amendment issue, the Attorney General’s Office argued in its filing that the unauthorized law statutes are not subject to strict scrutiny because the

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