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Senate approves bill prohibiting non-attorneys from advertising themselves as Notario Publico
The state legislature has passed a bill that would protect unsuspecting consumers who might be attracted to legal advertising designed to confuse and trick them.
The law is designed to reduce fraudulent representation of legal services in immigrant communities by notaries public who advertise themselves as a “Notario Publico” in Spanish or “Notário Público” in Portuguese.
In many Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries, a “notario publico” or “notário público” is authorized to perform certain services that in the United States are reserved to licensed attorneys.
According to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, there have been numerous complaints that a number of notaries public in Connecticut have been advertising themselves as a “Notario Publico” in Spanish, or “Notário Público” in Portuguese, potentially leaving the impression with unwitting clients that the notaries can perform certain legal duties – such as assistance with immigration matters – that would amount to practicing law without a license.
“I encourage Governor Malloy to sign this measure into law when it gets to his desk so we can clarify that only a licensed attorney can perform certain functions, such as provide legal advice on immigration matters,” said Merrill, whose office oversees the licensing and discipline for notaries public in Connecticut. “It is very important for the Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking public to understand: a notario publico is not necessarily a notary public or an attorney licensed to practice law in Connecticut.”
If signed into law by Malloy, the bill would prohibit a notary public from offering or providing legal advice in immigration matters, or representing someone in immigration proceedings, unless the notary public is (1) an attorney admitted to the Connecticut bar or (2) authorized by federal regulations to practice immigration law or represent people in immigration proceedings. The bill also prohibits a notary public from assuming, using, or advertising the title of notario or notário público unless he or she (1) is an attorney admitted to the Connecticut bar or (2) indicates in an advertisement or otherwise provides written notice that he or she is not a state-licensed attorney.
Under the bill, any notary public who violates these provisions is deemed to have violated the prohibition of the unauthorized practice of law and is subject to up to five years in prison, up to a $ 5,000 fine, or both. If enacted, the bill would take effect on October 1, 2013.
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