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4114Type of Legislation: General Bill GBIntroducing Body: HouseIntroduced Date: 20010515Primary Sponsor: WilkinsAll Sponsors: Wilkins and HarrisonDrafted Document Number: l:\council\bills\skb\18535som01.docResiding Body: HouseCurrent Committee: Judiciary Committee 25 HJSubject: Unauthorized Practice of Law Consumer Protection Act, Attorneys, Attorney General, Consumer AffairsHistory Body Date Action Description Com Leg Involved ______ ________ ______________________________________ _______ ____________ House 20010515 Introduced, read first time, 25 HJ referred to Committee Versions of This Bill
TO AMEND CHAPTER 5, TITLE 40, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING ARTICLE 6 SO AS TO ENACT THE "UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT" SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT LICENSED SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEYS MAY BRING TO THE ATTENTION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL A PERSON ENGAGING IN THE UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW, TO PROVIDE A TIME PERIOD FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO DECIDE TO PROSECUTE, TO PROVIDE IF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FAILS TO PROSECUTE THAT THE REPORTING ATTORNEY MAY BRING A PROCEEDING, TO PROVIDE MONETARY PENALTIES, AND TO GRANT THE REPORTING ATTORNEY IMMUNITY FOR BRINGING THE ACTION.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Chapter 5 of Title 40 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
Section 40-5-400. This article may be cited as the 'Unauthorized Practice of Law Consumer Protection Act'.
Section 40-5-410. As used in this article:
(1) 'practice of law' means an action done by an attorney in the normal course of business including, but not limited to:
(a) negotiating settlements;
(b) negotiating plea agreements;
(c) giving legal advice;
(d) offering legal explanations;
(e) interpreting a contract; or
(f) preparing legal instruments.
(2) 'unauthorized practice of law' means any person falsely holding himself out as an attorney, or engaging in the practice of law except as authorized by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Section 40-5-420. After July 1, 2001, a person engaging in the unauthorized practice of law is subject to the provisions of this article.
Section 40-5-430. An attorney licensed by the State may, by certified mail, report to the Attorney General any alleged conduct that would constitute engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. As part of the notification the attorney must include:
(1) the name and, if known, the address of the alleged violator;
(2) the conduct alleged to be the unauthorized practice of law; and
(3) any available supporting documentation.
Section 40-5-440. Within twenty days of receipt of the certified mail, the Attorney General must make a determination as to whether or not the State wishes to proceed with criminal prosecution of the alleged violator. Notice of the decision must be given to the reporting attorney.
Section 40-5-450. (A) Upon the decision of the Attorney General to prosecute, the action must proceed within sixty days.
(B) Upon the decision of the Attorney General not to prosecute or upon the inaction of the Attorney General within twenty days of receipt of the report, the reporting attorney may commence proceedings with a petition filed with the court of common pleas.
(C) The reporting attorney is granted immunity identical to that of attorneys employed by the State as provided by law for commencing this proceeding.
(D) After receipt of answer or expiration of time for the answer to be filed, the court may order the seizure of any business equipment, business and personal records, and the freezing of the alleged violators' bank accounts, and other assets.
Section 40-5-460. A person found by the court to be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law as set forth in this article may be:
(1) subject to the penalties of Section 40-5-310 and fined not more than five thousand dollars for each violation pursuant to this article, unless the law specifically provides another penalty;
(2) required to pay restitution to all injured parties;
(3) required to disgorge all gains resulting from the illegal actions;
(4) required to pay reasonable attorney's fees and expenses to the reporting attorney; and
(5) required to disclose the judgment on any subsequent licensing application.
Section 40-5-470. Any decision issued as a result of proceedings commenced pursuant to this article may be used as evidence in a subsequent criminal proceeding.
Section 40-5-480. Any fines received as penalty from adjudication of the unauthorized practice of law pursuant to this article must be divided in half, with half deposited by the State in the general fund, and half to the reporting attorney. All gains and profits received from the violator as a result of the action must be deposited in the general fund."
SECTION 2. This act takes effect July 1, 2001.
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