NJ Assembly Bill 1050 | NNA
Law

NJ Assembly Bill 1050

Notary Law Update: NJ Assembly Bill 1050

State: New Jersey

Summary:

New Jersey Assembly 1050 clarifies the classification of the crimes of (a) knowingly engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and (b) knowingly engaging in the unauthorized practice of law as an immigration consultant. New Jersey Notaries are thereby put on notice that the state is taking violations of these offenses very seriously in criminal and civil proceedings and refusing to appoint as Notaries persons who have been convicted of either.

Signed:  January 17, 2012

Effective:  January 17, 2012

Chapter: Public Law 2011, c. 209

Affects:

Amends Sections 2C:21-22, 2C:21-31 and 52:7-20 and enacts new as yet uncodified sections of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated

Changes:
  1. Classifies a knowing violation of the unauthorized practice of law or unauthorized practice of law as immigration consultant as a crime of the fourth degree.
  2. Classifies a knowing violation of the unauthorized practice of law as a more serious crime of the third degree if (1) the person creates or reinforces a false impression that the person is licensed to engage in the practice of law; or (2) the person derives a benefit; or (3) the person in fact causes injury to another.
  3. Classifies the assuming, using or advertising of the title of lawyer or attorney at law, or equivalent terms, in the English language, or any other language by an immigration consultant not licensed as an attorney or counselor at law as a crime of the third degree.
  4. Clarifies that any immigration consultant who is not an attorney and holds himself out as an immigration consultant is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
  5. Permits persons injured by the action or inaction of a person who knowingly engages in the unauthorized practice of law or unauthorized practice of law as immigration consultant to bring a civil suit in a court of competent jurisdiction.
  6. Clarifies that the burden of proof in a civil suit for the unauthorized practice of law or unauthorized practice of law as immigration consultant is a preponderance of the evidence.
  7. Awards the greater of $1,000 or treble the costs sustained, including attorneys’ fees and out-of-pocket and court costs as damages for a violation of the unauthorized practice of law or unauthorized practice of law as immigration consultant adjudicated in a civil suit. Note: these awards are in addition to appropriate legal or equitable relief awarded by the court.
  8. Provides that the fact that a prosecution of the unauthorized practice of law or unauthorized practice of law by an immigration consultant is not instituted, or terminates without a conviction, does not preclude a person from bringing a civil action for damages.
  9. Provides that a civil action does not preclude any other applicable civil, administrative or criminal remedy.
  10. Stipulates that a final judgment awarded in favor of the state of New Jersey in a criminal case for the unauthorized practice of law or unauthorized practice of law by an immigration consultant shall bar the defendant from denying his or her conduct in a civil action.
  11. Stipulates that a Notary may not be appointed or reappointed if the Notary has been convicted of knowingly engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (NJSA 2C:21-22) or unauthorized practice of law as immigration consultant (NJSA 2C:21-31).
Analysis:

New Jersey Assembly Bill 1050 clarifies that the crimes of knowingly engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) and unauthorized practice of law as an immigration consultant are now crimes of the fourth degree. In addition, the new law classifies a more serious violation of the UPL as a crime of the third degree if certain additional conditions are met. In New Jersey, a third degree crime may impose a sentence of up to five years in prison; the sentence for a fourth degree crime may be up to 18 months. AB 1050 also contains provisions regarding the filing of civil actions against either of these offenses and the extent of damages that can be awarded to victims of persons who knowingly engage in the unauthorized practice of law and unauthorized practice of law as an immigration consultant. The new law contains an interesting provision which states that if a person is convicted in a criminal proceeding for either of these offenses, he or she cannot deny the conduct in a civil case, thus making it likely that civil suits could be successfully waged. The new law acknowledges the Notary’s sensitive role by singling out violators who are seeking renewals for or first-time Notary appointments for the penalty of appointment denial.

Read the bill text.

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