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Legal Ethics

Fla. AG Has No Power to Probe Law Firm Under Unfair Trade Practices Law, Appeals Court Rules

Posted Apr 27, 2011 6:23 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Finding that the Florida attorney general isn't authorized to regulate a law firm under the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, a state appeals court has nixed an effort to seek information about a so-called foreclosure mill, Shapiro & Fishman.

In its ruling today, however, the 4th District Court of Appeals said the AG has the power to pursue a criminal probe of a law firm and subpoena information on that basis "if other relevant criteria were satisfied," the Palm Beach Post reported.

Attorney Gerald Richman represents the law firm. "We have maintained all along that we would give them a reasonable amount of information in the spirit of cooperation, and we still offer to do that," he said.

A spokeswoman for the AG's office says it is reviewing its options.

Today's appellate ruling is based on a finding that the AG doesn't have jurisdiction because what a law firm does isn't within the "trade or commerce" regulated by the trade practices statute, the newspaper explains.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "After Initial Nix by One County Court, Fla. AG Wins Subpoena for Law Firm Docs From Another"

ABAJournal.com: "Fla. Foreclosure Law Firm to Pay $2M to Settle Attorney General Complaint"

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