Actually this is kind of funny. Practicing law without a license is NOT against the law in AZ as long as you DO NOT claim to be an attorney. It is some kind of misdemeanor overseen by the State Bar. But if your not an attorney what exactly is the State Bar going to do to you - they CAN'T disbarr you. Ahhh... SO WHAT?
A Tucson man caught practicing law without a license three times in 12 years is at it again, the State Bar says.
And, as before, he will not face criminal charges because what he does is no longer a crime in Arizona.
Greg Shannon Levitt, a 68-year-old law school dropout, has been ordered repeatedly in civil court to cease his activities and has twice been found in contempt for failing to do so.
Judges and lawyers say he’s caused untold harm to his clients and to taxpayers by inserting himself into criminal cases and gumming up the legal efforts of publicly funded defense attorneys.
“Mr. Levitt has been holding himself out as a ‘legal professional/legal advisor’ in Tucson, taking clients’ money, giving them dubious advice and interfering with the attorney-client relationship for years,” Pima County Public Defender Joel Feinman said in a Jan. 5 email that is part of the recent State Bar complaint.
Levitt says he’s always honest with clients about the fact he’s not a lawyer, a necessity since posing as an attorney would leave him open to criminal fraud charges.
He scoffs at Feinman’s concerns, claiming he’s saved taxpayers “thousands and thousands of dollars” by pressuring public defenders to keep defendants out of jail.
“My friends call me the Lincoln lawyer,” he says, a reference to a 2011 film in which actor Matthew McConaughey plays an attorney who does business out of his Lincoln Continental.
Levitt operates from a townhouse on Tucson’s northwest side, using a business address on North Campbell Avenue that he rents from a private mailbox firm.
The address belongs to a law-related charity Levitt founded that was shut down by the Internal Revenue Service in 2010 for his repeated failure to file nonprofit tax returns, public records show.
He says he often doesn’t charge for his services because he has faith “God will provide.”
God apparently didn’t provide enough in 2016, when Levitt filed a “claim of paralegal lien” against a client he says stiffed him for two years’ worth of work in a personal-injury case.
A judge ordered him last year to remove the lien.
Unlicensed lawyering, decriminalized in Arizona since the 1980s, can only be pursued in civil court as a violation of State Bar rules. Levitt has been reported to the State Bar at least five times since 2001.
He claims to have a constitutional right to his activities and says he’s not hurting anyone because his clients get better results from him than they’d get with real lawyers.
A Pima County Superior Court judge rejected those claims in 2016 when he found Levitt in contempt of a 2005 civil court order to cease the unauthorized practice of law.
“There is no constitutional right to practice law without a license,” Judge Stephen C. Villarreal ruled, and Levitt’s claim “that his activities caused no harm” also doesn’t hold water, the judge said.
“Just because clients were satisfied ... does not mean there is not harm to them, to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession,” Villarreal said.
“The true measure of the harm inflicted is difficult to determine, but it is assuredly larger” than what Levitt claims, the judge said.
In many states, it’s a crime to practice law without a license.
An Arizona law that made such behavior a misdemeanor was sunsetted in 1984 when the Arizona Supreme Court gave the State Bar sole authority to handle such cases in the civil courts, taking them out of the criminal realm, according to a 1999 State Bar publication.
Two legislative proposals in the 1990s sought to make unlicensed practice a felony. Neither got off the ground in the Legislature, the bar publication said.
Heather Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Supreme Court, said State Bar rules against practicing law without a license are usually effective “except for a few occasional frequent fliers, of which this gentleman must be one.”
Each time Levitt was ordered to stop practicing law, he also was ordered to dissolve his nonprofit, Fathers and Mothers in Legal Yearning Inc., which purports to offer “guidance to people who need an understanding of their constitutional rights.”
Instead, he kept renewing the nonprofit’s registration with the Arizona Corporation Commission for years after it was shut down by the IRS, records show.
“HE PREYS ON PEOPLE”
A Tucson woman who complained about Levitt to the State Bar last year attached copies of a $2,000 legal bill he submitted to her on the nonprofit’s letterhead.
She also attached an advertising pamphlet that claimed the nonprofit was still IRS-approved.
“He preys on people who truly need the help of a real lawyer,” the woman’s complaint said.
“When he first meets someone that has some sort of trouble with the law, CPS or some other group, he offers to help. No mention of fees.
“Then after some time he gives them an invoice. Often these people have little or no source of income, which is why they were so happy to accept his help in the first place.”
Levitt denies tricking people into using his services.
In a written response to the woman’s complaint, he called her a “scammer” and a “low-life” who had nothing better to do than “f--- with people who are decent and work for a living.”
Levitt told the Star he didn’t dissolve the nonprofit when judges ordered him to because he considered those orders unconstitutional.
He says he recently did so in the wake of the latest bar complaint.
Feinman, the chief public defender who filed the most recent bar complaint, said he was moved to do so after Levitt jeopardized the legal rights of a Tucson woman accused of stealing a piece of jewelry from the home of her employer.
Levitt told the Star the woman wanted to “make it right” so he called police on her behalf and told them what she’d done.
Feinman said it was a grave mistake to make such a call without any preconditions in place to protect the woman’s interests.
“It would absolutely be malpractice for an attorney to essentially rat out their client like Mr. Levitt did. The attorney would be subject to severe bar sanctions,” Feinman said in an interview.
He said there’s no need for people in legal trouble to turn to unlicensed advisers.
Public defense attorneys are automatically assigned to every felony case and several local organizations offer free or low-cost legal help for handling civil matters or lesser offenses, he said.
Levitt, who has pledged repeatedly to stop his activities each time he’s been caught, says this time he intends to follow through.
“I’m done,” he told the Star. “I’m tired of all the bull----.”
He’ll soon have another chance to tell it to the judge.
The State Bar has asked that Levitt be ordered back to civil court to show cause why he should not be held in contempt and “taken into custody by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office unless and until (he) complies with the terms of prior court orders.”
A court date has not yet been set.