House enjoins vote on LegalZoom bill

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Legislation that would benefit LegalZoom and other firms that sell legal forms online –  SB 209  — was hit with the equivalent of a court injunction Thursday as the House voted to table the contentious bill.

HB 209 provides that when the LegalZooms of the world sell their online wills and incorporation documents to consumers, they are not considered to be engaged in the practice of law and thus cannot be sued by someone who might be harmed by using one of the legal forms.

The bill sparked more than an hour of edgy debate among lawyers and non-lawyers alike, with some contending that the measure was good for consumers and others arguing just as vehemently that it was anti-consumer legislation.

A motion to table SB 209 and sideline debate on it, at least temporarily, was passed by the House on a 122-40 vote.  The bill passed the Senate easily on March 4 by a 48-1 margin.

SB 209 is the rare bill that crosses party and racial lines, uniting black Democrats and white Republicans on both sides of the issue.

“To me, this is an access to justice issue,” said Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens), an attorney who specializes in family law.  “I see it as a way for the consumer to make a choice.”

“The pledge of allegiance says liberty and justice for all, not liberty and justice for those who can afford it,” Quick added.

“He who serves himself as an attorney has a fool for a client,” said Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), a lawyer.  “We can’t legislate against stupid, and this is trying to do some of that.”

Some attorneys objected to the fact that SB 209 protected LegalZoom from ever being sued, even if it sold a consumer a legal form that did not comply with state law.

“I don’t know why we would give a legal entity, LegalZoom, that (protection from lawsuits) we would not otherwise give to a paralegal,” said Rep. Rick Golick (R-Smyrna), an attorney.   “It’s just fundamentally wrong.  The losers unfortunately will be the consumers of the state at the expense of this corporation.”

Rep. B. J. Pak (R-Lilburn), who’s an attorney, said lawyers in the House should not vote on the bill because it directly affects their profession.

“It’s arrogant for us as lawyers to say what (legal) forms you’ll use,” Pak said.  “I urge my lawyer legislators to recuse themselves pursuant to Rule 133.  That’s what I’m going to do.”

With the motion to table, there was no need for anyone to recuse themselves from voting – at least not yet.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: B.J. Pak , legal forms , LegalZoom , practice of law , Regina Quick , Rich Golick , Wendell Willard