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United States v. Johnson
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
327 F.3d 554 (2003)
National Legal Professional Associates (NLPA) (defendant) provided pretrial, sentencing, and post-conviction consulting services. Hugh Robinson (defendant) was NLPA’s administrative, case-analysis, and research director. Robinson had been convicted for mail fraud and disbarred from practicing law in Ohio. Willard Johnson, who was indicted for federal drug trafficking, was represented by counsel but contacted NLPA after learning about it from another inmate. Robinson replied with a letter and promotional brochure. Johnson insisted that his attorney seek NLPA’s assistance. The attorney refused. Johnson filed a disciplinary complaint, and the attorney moved to withdraw from the representation. The district court was concerned that NLPA and Robinson had interfered with the representation and, pursuant to the court’s inherent powers, ordered NLPA and Robinson to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. After a hearing, the court found that by recommending the courses of action defense counsel should take and undermining defendants’ confidence in counsel who did not comply with NLPA’s advice, NLPA and Robinson had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in matters other than Johnson’s case. The court entered an order (1) prohibiting NLPA and Robinson from directly soliciting or sending promotional materials to criminal defendants or their families, providing research or consulting services to any criminal defendant without a bona fide request from defense counsel, and supervising or purporting to supervise defense counsel’s decisions; (2) requiring NLPA and Robinson to obtain signed authorization from defense counsel and fully disclose to any defendant and the defendant’s family NLPA’s limited paralegal role before providing any services; and (3) imposing a monetary sanction. NLPA and Robinson appealed the finding that they engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and the imposition of a monetary sanction.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Bauer, J.)
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