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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Washington State New Law


Notary Law Update: Senate Bill 5023
Description:

Senate Bill 5023 contains extensive prohibitions against nonlawyers and other unauthorized persons from providing legal immigration-related services, including provisions forbidding a person who is not an attorney from representing that he or she is a Notario Publico, Notario, or immigration assistant, consultant or specialist. The bill also specifically prohibits a nonattorney Washington Notary from using these terms when advertising Notary services.
State: Washington
Effective: October 22, 2011
Signed: May 3, 2011
Chapter: 244
Affects:

Amends Sections 19.154.010, 19.154.020, 19.154.060, 19.154.090, 42.44.030 and 19.154.900; adds new sections to chapter 19.154; creates a new section; and repeals Sec-tions 19.154.030, 19.154.040, 19.154.050, 19.154.070, 19.154.080, and 19.154.902 of the Revised Code of Washington
Changes:

1. Prohibits persons holding a Notary commission in Washington who are not licensed to practice law in Washington from using the term Notario Publico, Notario, immigration assistant, immigration consultant, immigration specialist, or any other designation or title, in any language, that conveys or implies that he or she possesses professional legal skills in the areas of immigration law, when advertising Notary Public services in the conduct of their business, and classifies a violation as unprofessional conduct under RCW 18.235.

2. Prohibits any person other than a Washington attorney or who is otherwise permitted to practice law or represent others under federal law in an immigration matter, from practicing law in an immigration matter for compensation.

3. Prohibits any person other than a Washington attorney or who is otherwise permitted to practice law or represent others under federal law in an immigration matter, from: (a) advising or assisting another person in determining the person's legal or illegal status for the purpose of an immigration matter; (b) selecting or assisting another in selecting, or advising another as to his or her answers on, a government agency form or document in an immigration matter; (c) selecting or assisting another in selecting, or advising another in selecting, a benefit, visa, or program to apply for in an immigration matter; (d) soliciting to prepare documents for, or otherwise representing the interests of, another in a judicial or administrative proceeding in an immigration matter; (e) explaining, advising, or otherwise interpreting the meaning or intent of a question on a government agency form in an immigration matter; (f) charging a fee for referring another to a person licensed to practice law; and (g) selecting, drafting, or completing legal documents affecting the legal rights of another in an immigration matter.

4. Prohibits any person, other an attorney with an active license to practice law issued by the Washington state bar association or who is otherwise permitted to practice law or represent others under federal law in an immigration matter, from engaging in the following acts or practices, regardless of whether compensation is sought: (a) representing, either orally or in any document, letterhead, advertisement, stationery, professional legal skills in the area of immigration law; and (b) representing, in any business card, web site, or other comparable
written material, that he or she is a Notario Publico, Notario, immigration assistant, immigration consultant, immigration specialist, or using any other designation or title, in any language, that conveys or implies that he or she possesses language, either orally or in any document, letterhead, advertisement, stationery, business card, web site, or other comparable written material, that he or she can or is willing to provide services in an immigration matter, if such services would constitute the practice of law.

5. Clarifies that the acts identified in numbers 2 and 3 above do not apply to nonlawyer assistants acting under the supervision of an active Washington attorney or who is otherwise permitted to practice law or represent others under federal law in an immigration matter.

6. Permits persons who are not attorneys licensed practice law in Washington or who are not otherwise permitted to represent others under federal law in an immigration matter to engage in the following services for compensation: (a) translate words on a government form that the person seeking services presents to the person providing translation services; (b) secure existing documents for the person seeking services (existing documents include birth and marriage certificates); and (c) offer other immigration related services that are not prohibited under this chapter or any other provision of law or do not constitute the practice of law.

7. Permits any person injured by a violation of these provisions to bring a civil action to recover the actual damages proximately caused by the violation, or $1,000, whichever is greater.

8. Authorizes the Director of Licensing to deny appointment as a Notary to any person who has violated any provision in RCW 19.154.

9. Requests the Washington Supreme Court to submit a report to the legislature no later than December 1, 2011, covering: (a) the specific services nonattorneys may provide to immigrants that do not rise to the level of the practice of law in immigration matters; (b) the level of access to and the quality of nonlegal and legal services immigrants have and the ways in which access and quality can be improved; (c) The level of need immigrants have for nonlegal services compared to the need for legal services in immigration matters.

Analysis:

Senate Bill 5023 is a comprehensive bill regulating the activities of nonlawyers and other unauthorized persons from providing legal immigration-related services. The bill provides specific acts which are prohibited to nonattorneys, among which are provisions forbidding a person who is not an attorney from representing that he or she is a Notario Publico, Notario, or immigration assistant, consultant or specialist. The bill also specifically prohibits a nonattorney Washington Notary from using these terms when advertising Notary services. The bill also establishes that any person injured by a violation of these provisions may bring a civil action to recover actual damages proximately caused by the violation, or $1,000, whichever is greater and authorizes the Director of Licensing to deny a Notary commission to any person who has violated a provision of the act. Instead of just dropping the heavy hammer, the Washington Legislature recognizes that there is a need for nonlawyers to provide certain nonlegal services to the immigrant community and specifies what some of these activities are. In addition, it requests the Washington Supreme Court's practice of law board to report back to the Legislature, with recommendations, on further activities of a nonlegal nature which could be performed within an immigration context by nonattorneys.
*PDF version is available only to NNA Members.

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