Posted By Cliff Tuttle | January 5, 2011
A month ago, on December 4, 2010, we reported about a potentially very important case in which a Pittsburgh lawyer had just filed in an equity action against a Philadelphia law firm specializing in mortgage foreclosure. The gist of the complaint is that the law firm of Goldbeck, McCafferty & McKeever, PC had permitted the paralegals to prepare and file complaints and other pleadings with little or no supervision from the attorneys. This, asserted plaintiff Patrick Loughren, constituted the unlicensed practice of law and rendered the outcome of all of the cases so conducted to be voidable. The assertions that pleadings were routinely signed by paralegals without being reviewed by attorneys appeared to be supported by admissions of all of the named partners in various court documents. For greater detail, refer to the December 4 post.
Since then, all of the Defendants have been served and preliminary objections have been filed. They allege a lack of standing by the plaintiff, who is seeking to attack all of the cases filed by the Goldbeck firm (GMM) on the grounds that any member of the bar has the ethical right and duty to challenge the unauthorized practice of law, including in the courts.
On December 16, the Defendants, represented by Weinheimer, Schadel and Haber, filed preliminary objections in which they set forth five arguments: (1) lack of standing — the Plaintiff has no personal involvement in the cases that are the subject of the litigation; (2) activity by paralegals with the authorization of attorneys does not constitute unauthorized practice; (3) indispensable parties, such as the former owners, mortgagees and post-foreclosure purchasers of affected real estate, have not been joined; (4) under the Rules of Civil Procedure, such matters must be raised in cases in which they occur; (5) the relief sought is beyond that authorized by the statute regarding unauthorized practice.
The case was assigned to the Commerce and Complex Litigation Center and Judge Christine Ward, who entered an order on December 21 scheduling a status conference on January 6, 2011. The Judge also set forth a briefing and argument schedule for the preliminary objections.
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