NYC legal organizations oppose nonprofit’s plan to advise on debt collection law

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  • Upsolve seeks to enable non-lawyers to provide limited legal advice to low-income New Yorkers
  • Legal services groups say in brief amicus effort fails to meet ‘pressing need’

(Reuters) – Civil Legal Services and civil rights organizations of New York oppose nonprofit Upsolve Inc’s bid to pave the way for a free legal advice program, arguing that a “wide range” of services already exists for low-income New Yorkers facing debt collection lawsuits.

Wednesday’s friend of the court brief came in response to Upsolve’s efforts to obtain a preliminary injunction to allow it to train non-lawyers to give limited advice on responding to debt collection actions, without violating state rules on the unauthorized practice of law. .

Upsolve and a South Bronx pastor sued New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office in Manhattan federal court in January, arguing that applying UPL rules to the planned program would violate the 1st Amendment of the American Constitution.

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Groups including Legal Services NYC and Volunteers of Legal Service said in Wednesday’s brief that rejecting Upsolve’s injunction motion would not cause “irreparable harm” because its proposal “does not address an urgent need.” .

Organizations made up of lawyers and supervised non-lawyers already provide a range of services to low-income New Yorkers being sued for consumer debt, they wrote.

The program offered by Upsolve may also not help those facing a default judgment due to the practice of “sewer service”, when a debt collector falsely claims to serve court documents, which is the leading cause of default judgments, they said.

The groups said the program would not serve the public interest, as they say Upsolve does not say it will first try to refer people to lawyers at existing free legal services or claim that lawyers will oversee non-lawyer volunteers.

Upsolve CEO Rohan Pavuluri said in a statement that while the organizations are doing “important and necessary work”, the only way for low-income families to access equal rights under the law is “if we expand free, safe and responsible legal aid to people who cannot afford a lawyer.”

Matthew Lawson of the New York Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is: Upsolve Inc et al v. James, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:22-CV-00627.

For Upsolve: Zack Tripp of Weil, Gotshal & Manges

For organizations: Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel

For James: Matthew Lawson of the New York Attorney General’s Office

Read more:

NAACP and faculty seek to support nonprofit in lawsuit against free legal advice program

Non-profit organization sues NY AG over rules of practice in attempt to provide free legal advice

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Sara Merken

Thomson Reuters

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as legal affairs, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Contact her at [email protected]


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