District Court Decision in REBA v. NREIS


Plaintiff claims that real estate conveyancing and the issuance of title insurance constitute the practice of law in Massachusetts and that Defendants, nonlawyers who conduct such services, have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by conducting so-called “notary closings.” Defendants counterclaim that Plaintiff’s interpretation of what constitutes the practice of law under the Massachusetts unauthorized practice of law statutes violates the Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"Because REBA’s definition of the practice of law would substantially affect interstate commerce, it is sustainable only if “it promotes a legitimate state interest that cannot be achieved through any reasonable nondiscriminatory alternative.”REBA has not made such a showing. REBA is correct that “the States’ interest in regulating the practice of law is ‘substantial’ and ‘compelling.’”But, as Massachusetts law implies and as REBA concedes, not every interconnected step of a real estate conveyance, by itself, constitutes the practice of law. REBA’s legitimate state interest “not in the protection of the bar from competition, but in the protection ofthe public from being advised and represented in legal matters by incompetent and unreliable persons,” therefore, would only apply to activities that actually qualify as the practice of law."

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Reference Info:Decision | Federal, 1st Circuit, Massachusetts | United States

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