law bans advanced fees
for immigration reform work
and immigration consultants are prohibited from collecting money for services
related to federal immigration reform until Congress acts under a State
Bar-sponsored law that went into effect last month.
consumer-protection legislation, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez,
D-San Diego, was introduced in response to reports from law enforcement that
the federal debate over immigration reform was prompting scams aimed at
action to protect those at risk of being preyed upon was a top priority this
year for outgoing State Bar President Patrick M. Kelly and incoming President
Luis J. Rodriguez. The bar worked with the American Immigration Lawyers
Association and other stakeholders on the final draft of AB 1159.
in California are fortunate to have bipartisan leadership that has come
together to protect a vulnerable community," Rodriguez said.
legislation went into effect upon Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature Oct. 5. In
addition to prohibiting advanced fees for services related to the federal
reform effort, the law also:
attorneys and immigration consultants to account for any money already accepted
for immigration reform services and either refund the money or deposit it in a
client trust account.
attorneys to inform clients receiving immigration reform act services where
they can report complaints. A notice for
attorneys to use has been posted on the State Bar’s website and is also translated into other languages, including Spanish and Chinese.
the amount of bond that immigration consultants must carry from $50,000 to
$100,000 as of July 1, 2014.
the use of the term “notario,” which has been misconstrued as someone who is
qualified to give legal advice.
that a person who violates the ban on the use of the term “notario” is subject
to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 a day for each violation.
second State Bar-backed consumer protection measure was approved by the
Legislature but vetoed by Brown. AB 888, authored by Assemblyman Roger
Dickinson, D-Sacramento, would have allowed the bar to collect fines and
penalties against those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
veto message said existing enforcement mechanisms against the unauthorized
practice of law are adequate. The Attorney General and local prosecutors have
the power to bring civil and criminal actions with fines. The State Bar can seek
bar had argued that without the threat of sanctions, the targets of the bar’s
civil injunctions are able to evade the bar by changing the name and location
of their fraudulent operations.
Bar CEO Joseph Dunn said the bar will work to address the governor’s concerns
and reintroduce the legislation next year. Also, the Board of Trustees at its
Oct. 13 meeting authorized the creation of a board committee to develop policy
for the bar’s efforts to stop the unauthorized practice of law.
addition, the State Bar’s annual fee bill was approved and signed by the
governor. Active lawyers will be charged $420 and inactive members will be
charged $145, with the ability to deduct up to $40 that goes toward funding various voluntary activities. The bills will be mailed in
December and are due Feb. 3.
are urged to make sure the bar has their correct address by looking up their online profile. Changes may be made
online by going to My State Bar
the request of the State Bar, the legislation also allows the bar to intercept
state tax refunds to collect unpaid fines and penalties.