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Last Post 02 Oct 2021 03:05 AM by CherieKoch
ACJA 7-208: Legal Document Preparer
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22 Jul 2021 08:26 PM
    For more information about this proposal please contact:
    Mark D. Wilson
    Certification and Licensing Division
    Phone: (602) 452-3378
    Email: [email protected]
    Comment deadline: October 1, 2021
    Attachments
    New Member
    Posts:2 New Member

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    28 Jul 2021 07:27 PM
    When establishing the legal document preparer program, the purpose was clearly stated: “… the need to protect the public from possible harm caused by nonlawyers providing legal services must be balanced against the public’s need for access to legal services.” ACJA 7-208(C) emphasis added. The program was established to “Protect the public through the certification of legal document preparers to ensure conformance to the highest ethical standards and performance of responsibilities in a professional and competent manner.” ACJA 7-208(C)(1)

    For many Arizonans, the high costs of attorney fees are simply not affordable. They are forced by economics to represent themselves. It is impossible to maintain any legal action without legal documents. Self-represented litigants (“SRLs”), without legal training, often find it difficult to narrow down the legal issues in their matters and find and cite to relevant legal authority to resolve those issues. This makes it difficult, if not impossible for SRLs to protect their legal rights. Additionally, courts are placed in a position of deciphering the intentions of the SRLs before they can begin to consider the merits of claims. For this reason, the legal document preparer program was established to to “Prepare or provide legal documents, without the supervision of an attorney, for an entity or a member of the public in any legal matter when that entity or person is not represented by an attorney.” ACJA 7-208(F)(a) emphasis added.

    After a two-year task force on increasing access to legal services and introducing the LP program, which has yet to have any certificates issued and will only include practitioners in family law at the beginning, we see a proposed change to ACJA 7-208 that will reduce access to legal services. This is at a time when the recently released 2020 Arizona Access to Justice Commission Annual Report states:

    "Legal aid agencies remain overwhelmed with demand for civil legal assistance. These agencies face actual or potential loss of funding, threatening not only the timely delivery of legal services but also the capacity to administer an effective volunteer lawyer program. Quick access to useful legal information that can be understood and used by self-represented litigants (“SRLs”) remains a critical need." (p. 3) (March 2021)

    The proposed ban on drafting “substantive legal motions, supporting memorandum, or appellate briefs, except that a legal document preparer may assist a client with a completion of motions in family court proceedings using the appropriate court approved motions form ” will harm the public. (The court provided motion form in Yavapai County is blank. A copy will be uploaded with these comments. It is not clear why the use of a blank form will help protect the public from harm or do anything to assist in the drafting of a legal document that is easier to produce using word processing software.) Denying access to affordable legal services to those who cannot afford an attorney is denying access to justice. Instead of having a justice system where an issue is determined on the merits, we will become a justice system where legal rights are determined by whether a person has the means to afford an attorney.

    It is possible to write a substantive legal document without providing legal advice and while keeping the SRL firmly in the driver’s seat of determining what issues are relevant and what issues the SRL wishes to argue. The legal document preparer (“LDP”) may ask the client to consult with an attorney in a limited scope to determine issues and legal theory which is then used by the LDP to draft the substantive document. The proposed rule changes 7-208(F) do not even consider that an LDP can collaborate with an attorney, who is involved in a limited scope.

    Furthermore, when this very same issue was brought up with the last proposed change in 2017, division staff could not provide one single instance of a consumer who had been harmed by an LDP preparing a substantive motion. The only complaints related to substantive motions were filed by judges and attorneys, who did not feel the LDP should be allowed to prepare these types of documents. There simply is no good reason for adopting this change, and a very good public policy reason to not make this change: to promote access to legal services for SRLs.

    I understand the argument that “the LP can provide those services.” However, there are none at present and their scope of practice is limited to family law because that is the only specialization test available at the present time. This leaves a huge gap in access to legal services. Perhaps in time the LP program will become more viable as a solution, but at the present time it is not. To restrict LDPs in the hope that the LP program might someday provide a solution is bad public policy and leaves SRLs in a terrible situation of losing legal rights because they are not wealthy enough to afford them. We will have a system of justice for wealthy, but not for the poor. That is not justice.

    7-208(E). The removal of court employees from those who can become a LDP is a mystery. Court employees are familiar with procedure and court forms. Why are they suddenly not acceptable to become LDPs? They still must pass the certification test. When we are trying to increase access to legal services, this change makes no sense.

    7-208(G). The change removes the language that Business Entities are not required to complete continuing education. That language is important. I disagree with the reduction in continuing education hours. In the many board meetings which I’ve attended, division staff and the board seem to feel that LDPs are barely competent. Why then would the number of continuing education hours be reduced? Yes, I’ve heard the argument that LDPs are not doing their education hours currently. That is not acceptable. LDPs must rise to a level of professionalism and complete their continuing education. I agree that the continuing education time frame should be every certification period, but I think the hours required should be twenty (20) per 2-year period.

    7-208(L). I disagree with the requirement of 3(b). I do not believe that division staff needs to be tasked with providing a 2-hour long class that takes away from substantive continuing education. I think if division staff (who already have plenty to do) want to prepare a class, they should provide an outline of what will be taught to determine if this is actually relevant to the profession. Then, we as LDPs could perhaps have some input. As it stands, this class on the “role and responsibilities” is covered by our professional association, Arizona Association of Independent Paralegals, as part of ethics training at each seminar.

    I disagree with the increase in ethics hours. If the continuing education period is two years, then ethics should be two hours. Again, I think the priority for continuing education should be in substantive areas.

    I disagree with the change to credit hours from tax related curriculum. Taxes are an integral part of understanding how to avoid estate and income tax implications when preparing a trust. For those who prepare trusts, they need to stay competent in the tax law related to trusts.
    --
    Prior to seeing these proposed changes, I was working on a proposed change to 7-208 which I had not yet submitted to the Administrative Director. I will upload that proposed change because I believe that is the change that we actually need to increase access to justice and update the continuing education requirements.
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    03 Aug 2021 07:07 PM
    ALLEN D. MERRILL (80098) COMMENT ON:

    PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO ACJA SECTION 7-208 (“Code”)
    DATED: AUGUST 2, 2021

    After reading the proposed Amendments to the Code, I see that some of them are basically “housekeeping” amendments, but at least one of the amendments seems to be in direct contradiction of the intent of the Code, which is to provide more access to legal services for the people of Arizona. After 18 years of the certification program, and the serving of hundreds of thousands of customers by CLDPs, it appears that the author, presumably the CLDP Staff Attorney, is now attempting to restrict many of those services and doing so without any documentation whatsoever of the reasons for this attempt. Thus, some of these amendments are actually an attempt to REDUCE access to legal services.
    If these amendments succeed, the citizens of Arizona will not be happy. If these restrictions on the access to justice are implemented, barring legal actions to prevent them, and the public hears about the court’s decision to limit the consumer’s access to justice, there will be a lot of disserviced and angry Arizonans.

    My objections are as follows:

    PROPOSED ADDITION TO SECTION F 1. a. Authorized Services
    A legal document preparer shall not draft substantive legal motions, supporting memorandum or appellate briefs, except that a legal document preparer may assist a client with completion of motions in family court proceedings using the appropriate court approved motions form;

    COMMENT:
    This is the codification of the personal opinion previously expressed by the Staff Attorney in prior disciplinary actions wherein actions by the Staff do discipline CLDPs for preparing “substantive motions” and doing “legal research” failed because, in fact, there was no restriction to that effect in the Code and the design of the Code was in fact, to allow full preparation of “any document for which the LDP is competent to prepare”. Now, in this amendment, such “codification” appears to be more an effort to enhance bureaucratic power and lawyer income at the expense of thousands of Arizona citizens. The Staff Attorney has not shown any complaints or damages alleged by consumers because LDPs have created substantive motions and it is doubtful that any were. All complaints of this kind, which are incredibly few, as far as I know, were filed by attorneys or the Staff. The author of this addition should be required to provide written documentation of a significant number of consumer complaints or alleged damages for this addition.
    The term “substantive motion” is intentionally vague, leaving the interpretation open to the Staff Attorney and/or the Board, presumably at the time of any disciplinary hearings, a circumstance that is designed to limit the LDP to a mere scrivener and a condition that the Code purposefully was designed to avoid. The author of this addition should be required to give examples and make specific delineations of the term “substantive motion”. Even then, this restriction will be extremely detrimental to the access to justice by Arizonans.
    This issue was brought up at meetings of the two year-long task force entitled “2020 Arizona Access to Justice Commission” at which time several members of that task force, including some Superior Court Judges, questioned how an LDP could provide their services competently without legal research and so-called substantive motions. Even one of the Task Force members, an appeals court judge, and himself an opponent of the LDP program, commented that, “if you are going to give these people this ability [ to prepare legal documents for Pro Se filers] it is wrong to deny them the tools to do the best job they can”. This amendment most assuredly will deny those tools.
    The purported purpose of the Access To Justice task force was to enhance the public’s “access to legal services”. In fact, this addition to 7-208 does exactly the opposite. It restricts the LDP’s ability to provided competent services to those Arizonans who cannot afford the services of a lawyer, leaving them to handle the matter by themselves or lose their case by default.
    The “bone” thrown to CLDP’s in this addition to the Code, that of being able to draft substantive motions using “court approved” forms for Family Law matters only, is ridiculous on its face. To begin with, the Rules of Civil Procedure, while providing basic requirements for preparation of motions, orders, etc., does not actually “approve” any substantive motion forms. The Self-Service Center forms, while helpful, are not truly “approved” forms. And…while the Family Rules do have a few such forms, the numbers of those forms are so limited as to be pointless. Finally, to limit the preparation of those forms to Family law essentially leaves the small businesses, individual civil, individual tax issues, immigration and individual probate matters “out in the cold” . To me, it indicates that the author of these amendments is more interested in enhancing a personal agenda than that of “providing access to legal services”.
    I have heard recently that these proposed amendments to 7-208, particularly those that restrict the previously allowed functions of LDPs, can “be handled by the new tier “Nonlawyer Legal Service Providers” (“NLSP”). Even if that is true, it will be years before the numbers of NLSPs, and the expansion of work that they are allowed to do, will fill in the need that consumers have for certain legal assistance. In the meantime, you are leaving the public without the competent help that they can afford to take care of legal issues and is currently available.
    All in all, this addition to 7-208 is unsupported by evidence or documentation, is detrimental to providing “access to justice” and leaves LDP’s who are honestly trying to provide competent services to Arizona consumers, open to unnecessary, unsupported and biased attacks by the Staff who will be able to created a definition on their own for such attacks. If enacted, it will truly deny “access to justice” for thousands of Arizonans. This addition should be eliminated from the amendments to 7-208 in its entirety.

    PROPOSED ADDITION TO SECTION L. 3. b. Responsibilities of Legal Document Preparers:
    Upon receipt of notice of board approval of individual certification and before April 30th of the following odd numbered year, each legal document preparer shall attend and complete a two hour professionalism training course on the role and responsibilities of the certified legal document preparer as provided by the division staff.

    COMMENT:
    This addition to the Code is again a codification of what incorrectly was attempted in years past by the Staff in which they attempted to inculcated their own personal opinions into a similar “class”. So… the question is: If the Code adequately presents the role and responsibilities of the LDP, what is the point of this class? Is it to, again, inculcate, the opinions and agendas of the Staff or the Staff Attorney? Further, the absence of any actual plan for the class presents a question as to whether any of the teachers, presumably staff members who have never been a CLDP, have the knowledge or experience to teach it.
    For CLDPs who have practiced for many years without undue violations of the Code, this is not only an insult to them, but a waste of time and money for the Court. Is this class one of the reasons the fees have gone up?
    Again, this addition is intentionally vague, with no explanation of how said Class will be presented and specifically what will be taught. Prior to any review or approval of this amendment by the Court or Administration, the author should be required to provide that information in specific and not vague or general form and to explain how the staff will be competent to teach the class to experienced CLDPs.
    This additions should be removed and the “Class” eliminated. It is another one of those bureaucratic boondoggles that professional boards are prone to dream up.

    PROPOSED DELETION TO SECTION E.3.b.(6)(a)(iv) and E.3.b.(6)(b)(iv) Individual Standard Certification:
    Removal of “as a court employee” for law-related experience.

    COMMENT: As with all previously mentioned amendments to the Code, this amendment does not show any justification or reasoning for it. The current Code requires that even court employees must have “law-related” experience so what is the point in eliminating that “experience” as qualifying under the Code? I understand that there have been many former court employees that have served successfully as CLDPs, so it seems untoward to be removing that “experience” as qualifying now.

    Allen D. Merrill, AZ CLDP No. 80098
    New Member
    Posts:2 New Member

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    20 Aug 2021 02:37 PM
    August 13, 2021

    Certified Legal Document Preparers Program Attn: Mark D. Wilson
    Certification and Licensing Division

    Re: July 21, 2021 Proposed Changes to ACJA § 7-208

    Here we are, back again, to address some proposed rule changes and code language that sounds eerily the same as the suggestions that were made that ended up with a TASK FORCE being commissioned to review the rules and responsibilities of CLDPs. If I recall, that Task Force did not change any of the language that allows us to prepare the paperwork necessary to assist the general public who are unrepresented. They DID find that adding another level of licensing for those who want to further their services and “practices” to assist those in the general public was probably a good idea, so they did. It was not found that we as CLDPs were incompetent or causing harm to the general public, that the complaint rate from the general public was relatively low. It was found that CLDPs were beneficial to the system and to the unrepresented public. What was in the statistics was that it was moreso attorneys that were filing complaints against us. I, personally, have had attorneys file complaints against me…and in my opinion, mostly frivolously (ego-driven). But I will get to more of that later.

    I whole-heartedly agree with Arlene Rheinfelder in most all of her response, as this is the heart of the matter.
    QUOTE:
    “When establishing the legal document preparer program, the purpose was clearly stated: “… the need to protect the public from possible harm caused by nonlawyers providing legal services must be balanced against the public’s need for access to legal services.” ACJA 7-208(C) emphasis added. The program was established to “Protect the public through the certification of legal document preparers to ensure conformance to the highest ethical standards and performance of responsibilities in a professional and competent manner.” ACJA 7-208(C)(1)”
    QUOTE:
    “After a two-year task force on increasing access to legal services and introducing the LP program, which has yet to have any certificates issued and will only include practitioners in family law at the beginning, we see a proposed change to ACJA 7-208 that will reduce access to legal services. This is at a time when the recently released 2020 Arizona Access to Justice Commission Annual Report states:
    "Legal aid agencies remain overwhelmed with demand for civil legal assistance. These agencies face actual or potential loss of funding, threatening not only the timely delivery of legal services but also the capacity to administer an effective volunteer lawyer program. Quick access to useful legal information that can be understood and used by self- represented litigants (“SRLs”) remains a critical need." (p. 3) (March 2021)”

    I could not have worded this more clearly or effectively. What I do not understand is why do we go through the trouble to obtain the schooling and/or experience required, pay fees to get certified, have to pass a lengthy test to prove our competence, and then be required to keep our knowledge base updated with continuing education, if the board that oversees us, and the attorney who is supposed to be defending us, CONTINUES to want to tie our hands and strip us of the exact things that are needed to help the general public?? Prior to the task force being commissioned, it was similar proposed language, stripping us of being able to prepare documents and turning us into glorified space filler-inners. This new proposal, to me, is just a back-door approach to achieving the same thing – start with small things to prohibit and work our way through prohibiting each document over time. Seriously? Who else is seeing this??

    How in the world am I supposed to assist a person trying to get through a divorce with children when there is a particularly sticky custody arrangement going on and someone wants their child to talk to the Judge? Am I not going to be allowed to include a Motion for In-Camera Interview of Minor Child Pursuant to Rule 12? Is that a “substantive” legal motion? And WHO is going to determine what “substantive” means any “legal motions, supporting memorandum or appellate briefs”? Or is the true intent of that (should’ve just said) to prohibit all legal motions, supporting memorandum or appellate briefs? I have several attorneys (and a couple of judges) who send people to me to assist with low-income cases to get through these matters. If you would like their names, I will send them to you privately. And I will go so far as to say that one of those attorneys has told me personally that I make him work for his money if my paperwork comes across his desk. So is that the issue? Does it irk attorneys that someone not of their assumed caliber would be smart enough to make them have to put in a little effort for their case to earn their money?
    We live in the lowest-income area of the state. Attorneys here are overwhelmed and so is our Legal Aid offices. And our population is growing thanks to the chaos happening all over our country. I used to work for a very smart lady who once said “there’s enough business for everybody.”

    Allow me to circle back to complaints filed against me by attorneys to make this point. I was hired (begged by) someone who did not have the money for an attorney to assist him with a responding appellate brief. The Appellate Court did not reject the document. However, they kicked it back at him because I failed to make enough copies and/or put the correct color sheet on top of them. They asked it be corrected and re-submitted. The attorney for the opposing party immediately filed a complaint against me alleging that I did not have the competence to create the responding brief because I did not make enough copies or put the correct color on the covers. Seriously? Does that sound like a knee-jerk complaint or one due to incompetence? Or was she just irritated because it was a pretty good responding brief? Or how about the phone call I received from a very old local attorney who threatened to take everything I own if I DARED to prepare and send another 20-day preliminary notice to the water company he represented? “Do I make myself clear!?!”

    Let me reiterate what I said at the Task Force meeting I was invited to by the commission: By regulation, Notary Publics are allowed to assist people with filling in the blanks on documents.

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    So my question is: What is really the motive for tying our hands and crippling us in our services of helping the general public?
    WE ARE CERTIFIED. We are doing what we do, under your requirements, because we WANT TO HELP those who cannot navigate the system or do not have the means to obtain an attorney. We become more competent over the years in dealing with varying situations for our customers and in our required continuing education, which, by the way, I end up doing much of mine through the State Bar of Arizona online due to the excessive expenses regarding travel because of my location. I am obtaining the same continuing education that is offered to attorneys. And I go to CLE presented by attorneys if I deem it valuable for documents I prepare. If you strip us of the means to help the general public, why would we need to get certified??? I could just be a Notary Public and help people fill in the blanks! Then, the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over me if I harm the general public. And since there is no longer the UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW statute on the books, I will repeat what a Court Administrative professional/pro tem Justice (who used to be a CLDP) said upon learning that, “Then why would ANYBODY need to get/be certified?”

    Now on to the proposed change of language regarding legal research. I can only for speak for myself, but I believe it applies to all of us if we are doing our jobs right, that I spend a lot of my time trying to guide/teach/educate people on what they are doing in trying to represent themselves. I have made it my routine to help people to find statutes and other items that they may need to help themselves. Regarding the proposed language, to try to differentiate between doing legal research for general legal principles, then in the next breath (sentence) say “shall not perform legal research for the purpose of providing a legal opinion, advice, or advocating a legal theory” is dangerous to CLDPs. This language has the ability to be manipulated in any situation to accuse someone of doing something they may have honestly not been doing. It is more legal loophole language that could potentially be used by anyone to form a false narrative, in my opinion. I, personally, have made it my routine to NOT lead people in one direction or another, to just get through their paperwork and legal procedures. They usually have a general idea of what's wrong/right or what they are needing.

    And now for the fun one! ACJA 7-208 L(3)(b)
    When an attorney has passed the bar, and then before opening a private practice, is he/she required to attend “a two-hour professionalism training course on the role and responsibilities of an attorney?” Inquiring minds really want to know, because I’ve met some that could really use that, and more!!
    Is this a one-time requirement upon initial certification? Or is this going to be mandated upon each renewal cycle as well? Either way, see previous inquiry!

    Re: L(9)(b)
    HUH?!? What does ANY of that say???

    I understand that the courts are attempting to make access to legal procedures more available online, and in the attempts to do so, are doing a couple of things as I see them: 1) It’s assuming that people first have the time to do this themselves; 2) It’s assuming the people can understand and get through 3-5 hours worth of questions and instructions of how to get through procedures; 3) It’s assuming ALL people have the comprehension and capacity, and are going to use it. The majority of people that I assist in my office are people who are either overwhelmed by the whole process and do NOT understand the language, or have no comprehension to the system, or people who quite simply do not have the time due to work, family, and/or all the other obligations and responsibilities going on in their lives. Respectfully, attorneys/the Board have no idea how often I hear “I just don’t understand all this and I’m afraid I won’t fill out the paperwork right.” There have been many times that I have had someone come in with “do-it-yourself” documents that were finalized with the court that ended up completely screwing one or the other party, and they are asking me to help take it back to court.

    In the attempts to tie our hands, it eliminates the option people have to use the option of a CLDP effectively, which will in turn give less options to the legal system in our state, and we reach a group of people that other options do not reach. With our program, people at least have another affordable option available to them that they have recourse if we do something that harms them. And in the information I have been able to obtain regarding the history of the program, that percentage has been quite low. What I do believe is that in the world of attorneys, courts, and legal systems that are in major cities and highly populated areas with many options, do NOT understand that to provide assistance to those who live in a area/county that is not directly visible to them with the highest poverty levels, do not understand the value of our program. We are a second-home community, mostly, that has only one option for people who serve that type of population, and they have to be seriously indigent in order to receive help from White Mountain Legal Aid. And they are so seriously overwhelmed and restricted to the types of cases they can accept due to being overwhelmed. They, too, refer people to my office in certain cases. I receive people sent by judges, attorneys, title companies, Legal Aid, and general public.

    I recall during one of the Task Force commission meetings that several of us were invited to for our input, comments being made by two individuals specifically, a judge and an attorney. The judge was banging his head on his phone muttering that “they’re practicing law”. The other person, attorney, responded to him saying “that’s why they’re here under the AZ Supreme Court. The AZ Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the practice of law.”

    If having to come back every two to three (2-3) years to defend the original intent of the program is necessary because some attorney(s) feel (subjective opinion) that we “should” not be preparing documents for whatever their subjective reasons are, then the wrong attorney(s) is/are on the board to represent us. Allow me to clarify my meaning of that statement. I have been contracted by an attorney licensed in California several times to assist with paperwork and processes for properties that he owns in Arizona. I explained to him some time ago that the attacks being made to us as CLDPs are by no less than the attorney on the staff that oversees our program, and his comment was roughly this, “Why is the attorney that is supposed to be defending and helping you coming after you and making things more difficult?” And another comment regarding attorneys filing complaints against a CLDP was “If an attorney feels the need to attack someone in your position, then he’s probably not a very good attorney.”

    I really think that any attorney on our staff needs to NOT be a fox overlooking our henhouse. Language to clarify the Judicial Code would be much more helpful than language to strip of the tools we need to assist others.
    Respectfully,
    S.L. Caley, AZ CLDP #81026
    New Member
    Posts:2 New Member

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    26 Aug 2021 05:53 PM
    P.S.
    A few points I passed over in my original response:
    1. In the attempts of whomever it may be that is attempting to remove our ability to draft certain documents, you then will embolden the Randi Rosen(s) of the world (Please feel free to look up those cases in Maricopa County and Navajo County), not to mention the numerous many others that are providing legal services under the table for a fee, which include (to my knowledge) "paralegals" registered with local county courts (feeling free to provide document services to the general public under the auspices of registration with courts), filing counter clerks (had a customer inform me that I charged more than the clerk did who prepared her divorce paperwork on the side), and paralegals in general with a blatant disregard to Arizona Judicial Code and statutory regulations (which, again I will point out now there is no statute for the "Unauthorized Practice of Law").

    2. I will reiterate, CLDPs are operating under the rules and in a manner which holds those certificate holders accountable if they do anything to harm the public. If the attempt to tie our hands in our work is to possibly benefit the newly created LLLP program succeed, while at the same time diminishing the need for CLDPs, and/or "lowering" its usefulness, which, I believe it will do just that. And I am sure that there is more than just myself who may not be interested in "representing" those who come to us for document assistance. Just as I know attorneys that do not want to be litigators, there are probably CLDPs that only want to prepare documents and assist with procedures. But if you start taking away documents that we can prepare, you only succeed in making us ineffective as CLDPs. Which now makes me wonder if it's a micromanagement issue of why such changes are being proposed. Is that the end game? To eliminate the CLDP?
    Let me add that I know when I get to a point that I MUST tell someone to get an attorney (as well as the dictated response according to Code), that they clearly need someone more knowledgeable and practicing law. One of my regular admonishments to my office receptionist is "DO NOT GUESS" when they are speaking with someone. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell them you "do not know, and will get back to them with an answer," even if that answer is "We're sorry, we do not give legal advice, and you need to call an attorney."

    3. Lastly, the lowest rate attorney's office in our area is $200.00 per hour and he has a full staff. And they are popular in our area due to sheer volume of business and his reputation for being in business a long time (good, bad, or indifferent). In practical terms, looking at your LLLP program, it does not make sense for me to change or add certifications at this juncture as I am not interested in personally representing someone, maintaining trust accounts, paying dues and answering to the bar as well as the board, and maintaining the level of insurance needed if I was to practice law on a limited basis. And to try to find ANYBODY in our area with half a brain and the desire to work or learn is a whole other topic! It is all an increase in overhead. And with all those additional requirements, it will force rates to go up to cover those costs and maintain any profit. And who, in one of the poorest counties in the state, is going to pay a LLLP $150 (?) per hour when we have attorneys charging $200 per hour?

    The proposed regulation of what documents I can/cannot prepare makes no sense to someone [me] that has been assisting (legally) people with document and procedure assistance for as many years as I have, unless the final result is to eliminate us as a whole one piece/document at a time. Is that the motive? It seems as though it is in my mind's eye...sadly.
    New Member
    Posts:1 New Member

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    27 Aug 2021 10:40 AM
    27 August 2021

    Arizona Supreme Court
    Certification and Licensing Division
    1501 W. Washington
    Phoenix, AZ 85007

    RE: Proposal to change ACJA 7-208: Legal Document Preparer

    The undersigned has read the proposed changes to ACJA §7-208 and feels compelled to reply. I could reply in simple terms: Don't fix that which isn’t broken. However, under the circumstances, I must specify my several objections.

    The AOC has failed to state a compelling argument for the proposed changes. It appears the proposed changes are a means to bypass previously approved committee decisions in the formation of the LDP program. In reviewing the published results of (2021) disciplinary actions, not one has come due to a Legal Document Preparer (LDP) being accused of having too much education. Nor has the undersigned noted any incidents of unauthorized practice of law (UPL) on the part of an LDP because of too much education.

    Instead, in the two incidents documented in the Board minutes of 2021 where there was a finding of UPL, it was found in both incidents that the LDP’s failed to have their clients actively participate in the procedure of drafting the documents. If the AOC cares to use these (and any other, similar) incidents as justification for changes to ACJA §7-208, these incidents are isolated, and not a pattern with the LDP profession.
    Unregulated, non-certified persons in the past (and present) have caused havoc among those representing themselves before the courts. The Certified Legal Document Preparer (LDP) in Arizona has been a blessing for the Self-Represented Litigants (SRL’s) to the former alternative of finding a rogue unprofessional preying on unsuspecting litigants.

    The contradiction in the proposed revisions to ACJA §7-208 against the goal of helping the SRL are plainly apparent in the proposed changes. LDP's provide a valuable service to SRL’s. Their contributions to the due process deserved by the SRL should not be weakened by wrongful over-regulation or burdensome restrictions.

    The proposed changes do not seek to, and will not result in benefit to the SRL, the courts, or the legal community, but place another obstacle within an already cluttered system to which the SRL must navigate.

    Needless to say, I strongly object to the proposed changes.

    Proposed reduction in mandated continuing education hours
    Firstly, the AOC, in its proposal, seeks to reduce the mandatory continuing legal education for LDP’s. That just doesn’t make sense.
    Education is a cornerstone of professionalism. Certified Legal Document Preparers (LDP) in Arizona have long been required to attend ten hours of continuing education each year. That is not an unreasonable number of hours, especially in considering that in a full-time work year there are 2,000 hours from which to choose. To lower the educational requirement to less than ten hours per year is a disservice not only to our professional requirements, but to the public, as well.

    A better educated LDP is an asset to the self-represented litigant (SRL), as well as the courts. An LDP who is less educated is more apt to make mistakes and cause the SRL to have documents redrawn, suffer financial injury, and suffer a failure of being able to adequately represent themselves.

    The under-educated LDP is also more likely to face disciplinary charges, resulting in the Board ordering not only financial sanctions, but also additional continuing legal education. Reducing the continuing education requirements is not a real solution, but a proposal that inadvertently creates other potential problems.

    Proposed change to ACJA §§7-208(G)(2) and 7-208(L)(3):
    Proposed change to ACJA §7-208(G)(2): Continuing Education. All certified legal document preparers shall complete ten fifteen hours of continuing education each year for a total of twenty hours every certification period pursuant to subsection (L).

    While it looks as if the AOC is proposing more continuing education, the details are in the fine print. The certification period is two years – that means that although the AOC uses a larger number in the cumulative, the AOC actually proposes a reduction of continuing education hours by twenty-five percent from the current regulation from the current twenty to fifteen hours in each two-year renewal period.

    Then, under the AOC's proposal, even after our current (mandated) continuing education hours are reduced, a further thirteen percent of the reduced hours are wiped out to accommodate “…professionalism training…” designed by “staff” under the proposed changes to ACJA §7-208(L)(3). It just doesn't make sense to increase professionalism by reducing continuing education.

    Proposed change to ACJA §7-208(L)(3): “Upon receipt of notice of board approval of individual certification and before April 30th of the following odd numbered year, each legal document preparer shall attend and complete a two hour professionalism training course on the role and responsibilities of the certified legal document preparer as provided by division staff.”

    Aside from this type of mandated “…professionalism training…”, reducing continuing educational hours, it also doesn’t make sense for the experienced professional in the private sector to take a “professionalism” class from a government employee spouting their opinion who knows little of private industry. That type of mandated class appears to be more of an indoctrination into the opinions of someone within the AOC, and makes it appear that the collective opinion of the AOC is that LDP’s are incompetent. We’ve seen how “re-education” reduces individual initiative and drives people to groupthink.

    The public judges our professionalism. Regulations have been set down establishing professional behavior. Collectively, we abide by them. Those who don’t are disciplined or driven out of business by a lack of business.

    Our continuing education hour requirements are just fine. They don’t need to be changed for the sake of change.

    Proposed restriction on LDP’s drafting motions, etc. [ACJA § 7-208(F)(1)(a)]
    Quite frankly, this section bothers me the most. This proposal eliminates many SRL's from utilizing the services of an LDP.

    By restricting the LDP from “drafting” “…substantive legal motions, supporting memorandum or appellate briefs…” the proponents forget that it is the SRL who has the final say and approval of any drafted document. The decision to file a document stands with the SRL, not the LDP. It the responsibility of the SRL to review and understand the document and its consequences before it is filed by the SRL.

    Regardless of if it is filling in a pre-printed form or typing something on pleading paper, the LDP can only craft a document based on the SRL’s wishes and at his/her direction. The LDP does not work independently in writing documents for the SRL, but rather at the SRL’s direction. Thus, the proposed restrictive covenants to ACJA §7-208(F)(1) would prevent the LDP from offering the SRL any options, in essence, throwing an SRL without means and ability to the street.

    Proposed change to ACJA §7-208(F)(1): Authorized Services. A certified legal document preparer is authorized to: (a)Prepare or provide legal documents, without the supervision of an attorney, for a person or entity in any legal matter when that person or entity is not represented by an attorney. A legal document preparer shall not draft substantive legal motions, supporting memorandum or appellate briefs, except that a legal document preparer may assist a client with the completion of motions in family court proceedings using the appropriate court approved motions form;

    Not every LDP focuses his or her practice on family law, and those who do will have their own objections. Enactment of this restriction to practice would result in the potential to put many LDP’s out of business and SRL's at risk. In non-family law matters, it would limit or otherwise eliminate the availability of access to justice for persons unable to afford the services of an attorney. Most SRL’s do not have a firm grasp of legal research, or writing ability, resources, or legal experience. The “system” scares them, and rightfully so. It wasn’t designed for the average person to easily comprehend and navigate.

    The use of the term, “substantive” is a term of art. Whether looking at the term, substantive, that which is “having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable”, or one in which “belonging to the real nature or essential part of a thing”, any document making a request to the court, filed by a self-represented litigant or one represented by his/her attorney, whether it be in the form of a motion or otherwise will have an impact on the rights of that person. All forms and documents filed requesting the court take an action may be considered a “substantive motion”, especially, but not necessarily when they are original, or novel in nature. All motions may affect the substantive rights of an individual.

    The proposal seeks to limit or eliminate the services an LDP may provide to an appellant. Most of the SRL’s the LDP assists cannot afford their own attorney. According to information, 13.8% of Arizona residents never graduated high school. When was the last time a high school dropout, or even a high school graduate wrote a cogent legal argument to prevail at the appeals stage?
    • Thirty-four percent of job applicants lack the literacy skills needed to do the job they seek. – The American Management Association
    • Twenty percent of Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage. – National Institute for Literacy
    • High school dropouts earn 48% less than those with a high school education. – National Center for Education Statistics
    • On average, adults at the lowest level of literacy are 10 times more likely to live below the poverty line. – National Adult Literacy Survey
    • High school dropouts earn 48% less than those with a high school education, contributing less to the tax base and society. – National Center for Education Statistics
    • Two-thirds of students who cannot read by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. – US Department of Justice
    This proposed restriction further puts the LDP who assists the SRL with drafting, filing or otherwise consulting on appeals issues or otherwise assisting the SRL in other areas subject to discipline. The proposal prevents the SRL from utilizing the talents and resources of the LDP to construct for filing documents in support of the SRL’s position, preponderances, or answers, where the SRL seeks to utilize existing statute and case law to protect their interests in areas other than family law.
    Examples of SRL's in non-family law matters who file the following will be affected:
    • Motion to vacate a judgment under ARCP Rule 60
    o for lack of proper service of process
    o abuse of judicial discretion
    o unlawful or improper evictions
    o other, numerous bases of appeals
    • Drafting a claim (notice before suit) against a government agency as required by statute
    • Criminal matters
    o Appeals and administrative responses in criminal self-representation
    • Claims and appeals to administrative agencies for workers compensation, tax-related issues, unemployment, filing administrative complaints with substantive supporting documentation for abusive collection practices, and other matters
    • Drafting a brief, motion, citation of points and authorities
    o Motions to continue
    o Motions for reconsideration
    o Motions for in-camera interview
    • Otherwise constructing documents relating to answers, responses, objections, lines of inquiry or concern in matters not necessarily as an appellant, but as a plaintiff, defendant, third party or other interested person in an administrative, civil, criminal or family law matter which requires either research into a legal issue or other statement of fact which must be comprehensively prepared.
    • Those SRL's seeking assistance under Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 36. Expunging Marijuana Records and Restoring Civil Rights – re: A.R.S. § 36-2862.
    o Under the proposed amendment to ACJA §7-208, an LDP would be prohibited in assisting a SRL with obtaining expungement of a marijuana-related conviction per Proposition 207. Prohibiting an LDP from engaging in such an aspect of practice, assisting SRL’s with motions and filings would not only deny the SRL his/her due process rights under Prop. 207, but also prohibit the LDP from engaging in lawful commerce.

    While some attorneys and other professionals would like to see the LDP relegated to the position of a mere “scribe”, it is incumbent that the legal profession recognize the LDP in Arizona as a vital part of the due process access to which all SRL’s are entitled.
    None of us wants to see SRL’s who go to court and clog it with unresearched and improperly written motions and other documents, resulting in further delays or having their cases or motions unnecessarily and summarily dismissed. This would create miscarriages of justice we so often have wanted to avoid for the SRL.

    For the SRL who cannot afford the services of an attorney, but who wishes to have their day in court, rather than foregoing due process, access to the LDP is a need which must be met.
    The restrictive proposals, if passed, will further cause a schism in the “have’s” and “have not’s” – those who can afford to pay for their own attorney, and those who formerly were able to use an LDP but cannot get access to justice because of regulatory changes. The changes proposed would result in severe inequities for all concerned.

    Conclusion
    I restate from my opening paragraph: Don't fix that which isn’t broken.

    The proposed changes would have not only a major negative impact on the LDP, but the public, specifically the self-represented litigant (SRL). The AOC has not provided any basis for the proposed changes. The proposed changes are a bad idea, in their entirety. The LDP program was approved by committee after long and thorough examination, and those decisions and regulations enacted are still valid.
    The proposed changes to ACJA §7-208 by the AOC do a disservice to the legal community. The proposals seek to circumvent the long standing and proven worth of the LDP, and effectively neuter the ability of the LDP to assist the people of Arizona. Unfortunately, if passed, not only will the proposed changes affect the LDP, but those consumers with moderate economic means, as well as consumers dependent on volunteer or other private charitable organizations.

    The proposed changes make ACJA §7-208 go from a set of regulations that guide and establish the professionalism of the LDP, to one in which prevents the LDP from offering beneficial services to the self-represented litigant – members of the public who choose to represent themselves before the courts.

    In this case, the proposed changes from the AOC, if passed, will do more harm than good, and should be disapproved in their entirety.

    Respectfully submitted,


    BARRY R. GOLDMAN
    AZ CLDP #81279
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    14 Sep 2021 04:45 PM
    The proposed rule changes to ACJA § 7-208 appear to offer a resolution to a problem that does NOT actually exist. Neither the Board of Nonlawyer Legal Service Providers or division staff have provided any justification as to why such drastic changes to the rules regulating Legal Document Preparers (“LDP”) are warranted. One would assume that such changes are in response to a multitude of complaints filed by the public concerning substandard work product being produced by LDPs. However, my firsthand observation of multiple board meetings over the last 3 years would strongly contradict that assumption. The number of public complaints that I have seen the board address over the years have been very minimal and of those even less were considered actionable. Most often it seems that the complaints are made by attorneys or judges who believe that an LDP committed the unauthorized practice of law and had nothing to do with actual harm caused the client of the LDP.

    The existing rules strictly prohibit the following: 1) “A legal document preparer shall accept only those assignments for which the legal document preparer’s level of competence will result in the preparation of an accurate document” and 2) “A legal document preparer shall not provide any kind of advice, opinion or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, or strategies.” Why aren’t those regulations enough? They are clear and straight forward, and if an LDP is working beyond their individual skill level or offering more than legal information to a client, then the Board should address the problem specifically with the offending LDP as they do now.

    The whole goal of LDP program is to increase the public’s access to justice while also protecting them from incompetent practitioners. The proposed rule changes essentially seek to gut a highly successful program which provides the public with a beneficial legal resource that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Do not punish the people of Arizona who rely on LDPs as a vital resource to meet their legal needs when hiring an attorney is beyond their financial means.


    Melissa Hill, AZCLDP 81696
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    27 Sep 2021 02:23 PM
    When you consider the lack of public comments. Please be aware, that commenters had difficulty registering, because the email verification/registration link was broken. This required calling division staff for help, and even with that, it took me over a week to register. Then when I did post a comment, it had to be approved by division staff before appearing here. Melissa Hill submitted a comment on September 14, 2021 which as of September 27, 2021 still has not been approved by staff and posted to the public forum.
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    27 Sep 2021 02:24 PM
    The proposed rule changes to ACJA § 7-208 appear to offer a resolution to a problem that does NOT actually exist. Neither the Board of Nonlawyer Legal Service Providers or division staff have provided any justification as to why such drastic changes to the rules regulating Legal Document Preparers (“LDP”) are warranted. One would assume that such changes are in response to a multitude of complaints filed by the public concerning substandard work product being produced by LDPs. However, my firsthand observation of multiple board meetings over the last 3 years would strongly contradict that assumption. The number of public complaints that I have seen the board address over the years have been very minimal and of those even less were considered actionable. Most often it seems that the complaints are made by attorneys or judges who believe that an LDP committed the unauthorized practice of law and had nothing to do with actual harm caused the client of the LDP.

    The existing rules strictly prohibit the following: 1) “A legal document preparer shall accept only those assignments for which the legal document preparer’s level of competence will result in the preparation of an accurate document” and 2) “A legal document preparer shall not provide any kind of advice, opinion or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, or strategies.” Why aren’t those regulations enough? They are clear and straight forward, and if an LDP is working beyond their individual skill level or offering more than legal information to a client, then the Board should address the problem specifically with the offending LDP as they do now.

    The whole goal of LDP program is to increase the public’s access to justice while also protecting them from incompetent practitioners. The proposed rule changes essentially seek to gut a highly successful program which provides the public with a beneficial legal resource that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Do not punish the people of Arizona who rely on LDPs as a vital resource to meet their legal needs when hiring an attorney is beyond their financial means.

    Melissa Hill, AZCLDP 81696
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    30 Sep 2021 05:06 PM
    SECOND PUBLIC COMMENT BY ALLEN D MERRILL REGARDING THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO ACJA 7-208:

    After significant reflection on the proposed Amendments to 7-208, here are my comments and observations.

    Let’s call this effort for what is really is. It is part of a continued effort by the Staff Attorney and CLDP Board attorney members to reduce the public’s access to legal services, contradicting the intent of the creation of the Legal Document Preparer program. Adjacent to that effort and intent, it appears that it is an effort to restrict document preparers so as to benefit those attorneys who view LDPs as “competition”.

    The program, as it is, was approved unanimously by the Task Force on Unauthorized Practice of Law, multiple Supreme Court committees, the State Bar’s Board of Governors and the Supreme Court of Arizona.

    Now the Staff Attorney and, possibly, the Board of CLDPs (the proposers are not clear), apparently knowing better than all of those committees and boards and the Arizona Supreme Court, after 18 years of very low levels of public (non-lawyer) complaints, and without a stitch of justification or documentation of reasons, proposes to make major and detrimental changes to that program which will not just restrict CLDPs from performing their duties to their clients but will leave thousands of Arizonans without the ability to prosecute their legal matters.

    Believe me, this unjustified and unconstitutional effort to restrict access to legal services, will not be happily and quietly accepted by the Arizona public, even if it succeeds in being passed by the court and survives federal litigation.

    Thank you.
    Allen D. Merrill
    CLDP #80098
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    30 Sep 2021 06:38 PM
    DONALD F. STEWARD PUBLIC COMMENTS ON ACJA 7-208 PROPOSED AMENDMENTS

    I, Donald F. Steward, submit this public comment in opposition to the proposed amendments to ACJA Section 7-208 J(a) and (d). Said proposed amendments would substantially reduce the scope and quality of low-cost legal services available to the general public effectively baring thousands of low-income consumers each year from access to justice and their legal needs in general. In addition, the restrictions and prohibitions set forth in the proposed amendments, if enacted, would force many hard-working certified legal document preparers out of business who will no longer be able to offer the services they have built their businesses around. Moreover, the proposed changes are being set forth by the Board of Legal Document Preparers without any stated reason or cause for the dramatic change. I also object to proposed amendments to ACJA § 7-208 L (3)(b) and ACJA § 7-208 E (3).

    My opposition is further based upon the following facts and grounds.

    MY KNOWLEDGE OF THE ISSUES: In 2002, I served on the Arizona Supreme Court Ad hoc committee which drafted ACJA 7-208. I was intimately involved in constructing the language of the code, including 7-208 (F), which details the “Authorized Services” a certified legal document preparer may offer the general public. Thereafter, I was honored to serve on the first Board of Legal Document Preparers from 2003 to 2006, where we further developed the program, its policies, and procedures. I have also been a Certified Legal Document Preparer since the inception of the program and have served for many years as an officer of the Arizona Association of Independent Paralegals, the state’s largest professional association for LDPs.

    AN LDP’S CURRENT AUTHORITY: Simply stated, LDPs are authorized to engage in a limited authority to practice law as it relates to the preparation of legal documents for and on behalf of a consumer for any legal purpose. The ACJA § 7-208(F)(1), titled “Authorized Services”, states that “A certified legal document preparer is authorized to: (1) Prepare or provide legal documents, without the supervision of an attorney, for an entity or member of the public in any legal matter when that entity or person is not represented by an attorney.” The LDP code of conduct, which describes LDP conduct in providing such services, also provides insight and clarification as to the scope of LDP services and intent of the program. For instance, the LDP code requires in part an LDP “shall respect and comply with the laws” (ACJA § 7-208(J)(1)(a)), “keep abreast of current developments in the law as they relate to legal document preparation, ACJA § 7-208(J)(2)(d), “provide complete documents to a consumer” and “meet document preparation deadlines in accordance with rules, statutes, court orders, or agreement with the parties” ACJA § 7-208(J)(4)(a). The LDP Code further requires LDPs “perform all duties and discharge all obligations in accordance with applicable laws, rules, or court orders” ACJA § 7-208(J)(5)(a), and that LDPs only accept assignments which “will result in an accurate document” ACJA § 7-208(J)(4)(b).

    AN LDP’S ABILITY TO PREPARE SUBSTANTIVE LEGAL MOTIONS, SUPPORTING MEMORANDUM AND APPELLATE BRIEFS WAS THOROUGHLY VETED BY THE DRAFTING COMMITTEE AND MULTIPLE COURT COMMITTEES

    The proposed change to ACJA § 7-208F(1)(a) would insert the following additional language:

    “a legal document preparer shall not draft substantive legal motions, supporting memorandum or appellate briefs, except that a legal document preparer may assist a client with the completion of motions in family court proceedings using the appropriate court approved motion forms”.

    As stated above, the proposed changes to ACJA § 7-208F(1)(a) have been offered with no explanation or justification. The proposal presumes to just know better, and completely disregards the hard work of the original ad hoc committee which drafted § 7-208 and numerous other committees that reviewed and approved ACJA § 7-208. The ad hoc committee consisted of numerous members of the Arizona State Bar, including the President of the Bar at the time, numerous attorneys with the Arizona Supreme Court, private attorneys, and several “independent paralegals”, including myself, whom would later be some of the first certificate holders. The ad hoc\ drafting committee, specifically contemplated, analyzed, and discussed the ability of document preparers to prepare motions, memorandums and appellate briefs, including whether such services could be offered in a manner consistent with the rules which would become ACJA § 7-208. After carefully considering these and other relevant issues, the ad hoc committee voted UNANIMOUSLY to approve these provisions. Prior to the vote, the State Bar Board of Governors UNANIMOUSLY voted to authorize its members, who were representing the Bar on the ad hoc committee, to vote in favor of approval. In addition, the provisions of ACJA § 7-208 referred to above went through a rigorous scrutiny and approval process with several committees, including the Committee on Limited Jurisdiction Courts, the Committee on the Superior Court, and The Arizona Judicial Council, all of which UNANIMOUSLY approved these provisions. It should be noted that among other considerations, each of these committees specifically contemplated, analyzed, and discussed the ability of document preparers to prepare motions, memorandums and appellate briefs, including whether such services could be offered in a manner consistent within the court rules. Finally, the Arizona Supreme Court Justices reviewed and approved UNANIMOUSLY, the same provisions referred to above, as they are currently written. Again, despite the extensive and thorough vetting of this issue, eighteen years later, these proposed changes are being offered without any discussion or analysis regarding the grounds or basis which may justify the changes. To be clear, there is in fact no justification or reasons in the interest of the LDP program or the public to approve the proposed changes, rather, if approved they will have a significantly negative impact on the public and the LDP program.

    APPROVAL OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES WILL IMPACT THOUSANDS OF SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS EACH YEAR.
    Prohibiting the preparation of substantive motions, memorandum, and appellate briefs will deprive self-represented litigants from access to justice. While I am not aware of any formal studies which report on the volume of such work document preparers regularly performed for the general public, it can reasonably be estimated to be in the tens of thousands over the past eighteen years. Data from my own LDP business can provide some perspective. I have owned and operated an LDP business since the inception of the program, which annually served 800 to 1200 customers in a broad scope of legal matters, including civil, family, probate, business, and estate planning related matters. I estimate assisting 150 to 200 customers per year with various motions, mostly in civil or family court matters. Thus, since the inception of the program, I have prepared close to 3000 motions for consumers. There are hundreds of LDP businesses, many of which do a substantially larger volume of such work than my business for consumers on an annual basis. Such services are in high demand by the public and eliminating them for no reason does nothing but sever a consumer’s access to justice. In view of the above, I urge the court to reject the proposed changes to ACJA § 7-208F(1)(a)

    APPROVAL OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES WILL FINANCIALLY IMPACT A LARGE SEGMENT OF THE LDP COMMUNITY
    The court should also consider the devastating impact the proposed amendments will have on many LDPs who have a significant portion of their revenue come from preparing motions, memorandum, and appellate briefs. LDPs often operate on a shoestring budget and eliminating these services may cause many LDPs to go out of business, or have to raise prices on other services, all of which ultimately negatively impacts the consumer.

    PROPOSED CHANGES TO ACJA § 7-208 F (1)(d) ARE ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS

    The proposed amendment to ACJA §7-208F(1)(d) reads that a certified legal document preparer is authorized to:

    "Conduct legal research necessary to understand general legal principles to assist a client identify and complete a competent legal form or document. A legal document preparer shall not perform legal research for the purpose of providing a legal opinion, advice, or advocating a legal theory".

    Again, these proposed changes to ACJA §7-208F(1)(d) are being offered without any statement as to the necessity or purpose of the change. It is not self-evident as to the need or purpose. The proposed provisions are arbitrary and capricious, and potentially conflict with other provisions of ACJA §7-208, such as an LDP’s authority to “prepare any legal document”, to provide consumers with specific “legal information”, and to provide consumers with “general factual legal information pertaining to legal rights, procedures, or options available to a person or entity”. Some of the many questions which arise concerning the proposed changes include:

    Do the proposed changes prohibit a document preparer from assisting a consumer with legal research, at the direction of the consumer?

    Would it be a violation of this provision to provide a consumer general legal information which contains a legal opinion, advice, or advocated a legal theory?

    The language of the proposed amendment does not give an LDP reasonable notice of a potential violation of the provision. In view of the above, this proposed amendment should be rejected.

    PROPOSED CHANGES TO ACJA § 7-208 L (3)(b) REQUIRING “PROFESSIONALISM TRAINING COURSE” IS WIHTOUT BASIS AND UNECESSARILY BURDENSOME

    To be clear, this certificate holder has no issue with division staff providing the option of a training course on the role and responsibilities of the certified legal document preparer. However, requiring an LDP to do so seems to be entirely unnecessary and burdensome to the certificate holder who has just been determined by the program to be fully qualified for certification and having passed the required examination. It seems to be an upside-down approach to provide training on a subject after the certificate holder has been determined to be sufficiently knowledgeable, actually an expert, on the role and responsibilities of being a certified legal document preparer. It is particularly unnecessary for LDPs who have been practicing for many years, some of which for almost two decades. In addition, there are numerous opportunities for LDPs to take seminars, webinars, and to access resources for self-study on LDP ethics which almost always cover the basic roles and responsibilities. Such seminars and webinars are taught by instructors who are qualified and experienced LDPs as well as by attorneys. While in this certificate holder’s opinion the course is not needed, at least it should not be required. Again, the course is being proposed with no information offered as to need or potential benefits to the LDP community or the public.

    THE PROPOSED ELIMINATION OF EXPERIENCE WORKING FOR THE COURT AS A QUALIFYING BASIS FOR CERTIFICATION IS WITHOUT BASIS ACJA § 7-208 E (3)

    The proposed changes include eliminating work experience for the court as a basis to qualify for certification as a legal document preparer. Again, this significant change grounds for qualification is made without any stated justification or grounds. As stated above, this is another provision which was thoroughly reviewed by the original ad hoc committee and the other committees listed above and included as a possible basis to qualify for certification for good reason. Indeed, there are numerous positions within the various Arizona courts which provide experience in various legal matters rendering the employee more than competent to provide legal document preparation services to the general public. I am informed and believe there are numerous current and former court employees who have been certified as a legal document preparers. Removing this excellent source of potential LDPs is contrary to the best interest of the LDP program and the public. However, this certificate holder would support adding language to ACJA § 7-208 E (3) so as to clarify the nature of a court employee’s experience in order to qualify for certification. In its present form, this proposed amendment should be rejected.

    Respectfully submitted this 30th day of September 2021

    Donald F. Steward, AZCLDP #80339
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    30 Sep 2021 11:25 PM
    This comment (attached) has been drafted on behalf of the Arizona Association of Independent Paralegals (AAIP) in response to the proposed amendments to ACJA Section 7-208. Specifically, it objects to the proposed amendments to ACJA § 7-208(F)(1) (authorized services); ACJA § 7-208(E)(3)(b)(6) (education and experience requirements), and ACJA § 7-208(L)(3) (professionalism course requirement).

    In particular, this comment raises four primary objections to the proposed amendments to ACJA § 7-208(F)(1). First, the proposed amendments do not promote access to justice. Second, the proponents of the amendments have not shown any justification for the amendments. Third, the conduct proposed to be prohibited is actually contemplated by ACJA § 7-208 and has been practiced by Certified Legal Document Preparers ("CLDPs") for decades without demonstrable harm. Finally, the proposed amendments are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and likely to lead to troubling interpretations and prosecution of otherwise law-abiding CLDPs. For the reasons stated above and argued in more detail in the attached comment, the proposed amendments to ACJA § 7-208(F)(1) must be rejected.

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    01 Oct 2021 07:04 PM
    SINCE THE AAIP ATTORNEY, BRIAN LOCKER'S COMMENTS WERE PREVIOUSLY SUBMITTED BUT ARE NOT POSTED YET, I AM SUBMITTING THEM AGAIN TO BE SURE THEY HAVE BEEN RECEIVED:

    SEE COMMENTS ATTACHED HERETO
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    02 Oct 2021 02:27 AM
    I’m a single mom who is in favor of legal document preparers. If these document preparers are no longer available, you will be doing a great injustice to people who do not have the finances to pay for a lawyer, if there’s been an injustice. LDP’s give the lower and middle class a chance to get justice. My LDP, listens to me and what I want to say, and gets it done. It’s a persons choice to hire a lawyer or to represent themself, and if they choose to represent themself and hire a LDP, that’s their choice and the person takes responsibility for it, as I sad. It’s their choice. Losing the ability to hire an LDP would be a great injustice.
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    02 Oct 2021 02:41 AM
    I, Cherie Koch, respectfully submit my public comment to the proposed changes to Section 7-208 of the Arizona Code of Judicial Administration. It is my opinion that the proposed changes will: 1) cause irreparable injury to Arizonans who rely upon CLDP’s to have affordable access to legal services, and 2) will force hundreds of CLDP’s out of business. The proposed changes will gut the program and deprive Arizonans of their opportunity to be heard in Arizona Courts in civil, probate, juvenile or criminal matters as well as curtail their ability to have a CLDP draft other documents (e.g., Will, Mechanic’s Lien, Power of Attorney, etc.) where there is no “court-approved form.”

    Please see my entire comment in the attached PDF, as well as an article from the Institute for Justice (who fought for the CLDP Program) and another article from the Dept. of Justice website. he American Bar Association set up a special task force whose goal was to propose a "model definition of the practice of law." The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission had to intervene, because the ABA's ultimate definition was so overly broad. The FTC and the DOJ had to intervene because the ABA's turf protecting threatened commerce because their definition would have interfered with commerce and daily life. With the ABA's definition of the practice of law would have interfered with a person's ability to "secure legal rights" when writing a check without being a lawyer! I see these rule changes going down the same slippery slope and are more about turf protecting than concern for harm to the public.
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    02 Oct 2021 02:59 AM
    I agree with Arlene about the LP Program. I thought it was quite progressive to ADD another tier, but these Rule changes GUT the existing CLDP Program while the LP Program is not even fully-functional. Even if it was, there is no need to gut the CLDP Program as these amendments propose. Moreover, most CLDPs do not want to represent clients or go through the process to become an LP.

    It's clear that, by proposing these changes, "they" (whoever he/she/they might be) want to create a lower tier of "form-filler-outers" whose CE requirements are decreased because they no longer require as much education. But the ethics requirement is increased, so at least they will be "ethical form fillers."

    I want the total CE hours to remain the same and I want the successful CLDP Program to remain intact. Our CLDPs are outstanding professionals that I am proud to call my peers. I have come to know many over the past couple of decades and they really care about Arizonans. They work hard and are not getting rich in the process. It is a great public service to our state and needs to remain intact as it has since its inception.
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    02 Oct 2021 03:05 AM
    This is a really good point about the unintended consequences of adopting the proposed changes and that it is foreseeable that the public will hunt for rogue paralegals who will provide them the services that will be curtailed if Section (F)(1)(a) reduces CDLP's to mere scriveners.
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