Paralegal Represents Client in Court – Attorney Gets Censured

Any paralegal worth his or her salt knows that the first thing you cannot do is to represent yourself as an attorney.  Apparently, according to an article in The New York Lawyer, a lawyer and his paralegal thought otherwise.

According to the article, Pomper sent his paralegal/secretary Larissa Sufaru to a hearing in Somerset County (New Jersey) Family Part on May 5, 2006, with Bruce Finney, whom Pomper represented in a child support matter. At the hearing, Sufaru identified herself as a lawyer, entered an appearance on the record, allowed herself to be addressed as "counselor" without objecting and advocated for Finney on the support issue.

Are you serious???? You may as well call yourself a police officer or identify yourself as a doctor.  I wonder about this paralegal's mindset:  Was she giddy with supposed power?  Afraid to speak up? Trying to do what she thought her boss wanted? Didn't think she was doing anything wrong?  Whatever her reasoning, the court found out she was not an attorney and went after her boss.

Apparently, Pomper thought he was sending the paralegal to find out about blood tests results and not a hearing.  Okay, a bit misguided here.  Once there, apparently the paralegal decides to proceed anyway.  While the article tackles the disciplinary action set downConfused woman  for the attorney, I'm wondering about the paralegal. In an opinion released Tuesday, the Disciplinary Review Board said Pomper should be censured.  The sanction was one step up from the reprimand that the District VIII Ethics Committee recommended. Both the committee and the DRB determined that Pomper breached Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5(a)(2), assisting the unauthorized practice of law, and 8.4(a), violating ethics rules, inducing someone else to do so or violating them through someone else's actions.

This is a prime example of the argument for regulation of paralegals. Short of being fired, what actions can be taken against the paralegal?

One Reply to “Paralegal Represents Client in Court – Attorney Gets Censured”

  1. When I was a puppy paralegal, my attorney put me on the spot by telling me to “hold his place” in small claims court while he ran upstairs for a hearing before a probate judge. Rather than coming back to the courtroom, my attorney went back to the office, leaving me doing my best to explain to the court that I wasn’t a lawyer, wasn’t trying to be a lawyer, and didn’t know why my boss hadn’t come back. Luckily for me, the judge didn’t squash me or our client, but no one would have blamed him if he had.

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