Monday, December 6, 2010

Philadelphia law firm used nonlawyers to file foreclosures, suit alleges

Question: Is it illegal to practice law without passing the bar exam.
The suit alleges that nonlawyers at GMM filed “hundreds, if not thousands of foreclosure lawsuits” in Pennsylvania that were written, signed and filed without attorney reviewing or signing the documents. “These documents serve the ultimate purpose … which is to maximize recovery of ‘attorney’s fees,’ " the lawsuit contends.
“The defendants make it appear as if a lawyer has read, reviewed and signed the document by either typing lawyers’ names on the documents, signing lawyers’ names … or both.”
The lawsuit refers to a Sept. 21 deposition in a separate case, Kimberly A. Robinson v. Countrywide Home Loans, in which named partner Gary McCafferty admitted that foreclosure complaints in 2006 could be filed without an attorney review. He also said the firm allowed administrative staff to sign attorneys’ names to the documents knowing that an attorney had not reviewed them. A deposition from Joseph Goldbeck, a former shareholder and former attorney at the firm, also confirmed the practice occurred in 2006.
The unauthorized practice of law is considered a criminal offense, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. County courts may also enjoin parties from the unauthorized practice of law. Loughren contends in his suit that the criminal remedy is inadequate to protect the public and that an injunction is needed. Pennsylvania requires a judicial settlement in foreclosure cases.

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