A lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court for the Southern District of New York argues that New York’s law prohibiting individuals who are not lawyers from providing legal advice interferes with New Yorkers First Amendment rights.
According to the complaint, debt collection actions are one of the most common lawsuits in New York. To respond to debt collection lawsuits, New York State provides a standard fill-in-the-blank form. However, the majority of defendants to these actions are low-income individuals who cannot afford representation. Therefore, they end up going into default and losing their property. In connection to losing their property, individuals often experience damage to credit and wage garnishment.
Plaintiff Upsolve is a nonprofit organization with a mission to ensure that all Americans can access their legal rights. Upsolve has created a training program for non-lawyers to provide free legal advice to low-income New Yorkers facing debt collection actions. The program is called the American Justice Movement. Upsolve contends that the application of the New York law to the American Justice Movement is unconstitutional. The complaint specifically states that:
Plaintiffs bring this action to vindicate their First Amendment rights to close this gap in the access to justice, and to declare that New York’s UPL rules cannot be validly applied to prohibit the truthful and non-misleading advice they would provide.
Upsolve’s hope for relief is their request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the application of New York’s UPL rules to the Plaintiffs’ intended conduct.