Tennessee Issues Press Release – Seeking Notario Victims
[Editor’s Note: Last month, we featured an article by Ms. Caitlin Doty, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Tennessee on the rampant abuses by notarios. Today, we are providing a follow up of the recent developments in that state. Below is the October 24, 2012 press releaseforwarded to LawLogix by Ms. Caitlin Doty, further demonstrating the wins in the state thus far against individuals illegally practicing law and unlawfully taking advantage of immigrant communities.]
State Reaches Agreed Final Judgment Granting Permanent Injunction with Consumer Relief in Unauthorized Practice of Law Case, October 24, 2012
Martha Salazar, who was doing business as Comunidad Hispana in South Nashville, is permanently enjoined from practicing law without a license and must refund consumers for services that she has performed, a Circuit Court has ordered.
Davidson County Judge Amanda McClendon has entered the Agreed Final Judgment that will permanently stop Salazar from violating unauthorized practice of law statutes and consumer protection laws at the request of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper’s Office. The action, filed on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs, prohibits Salazar from advertising or providing legal services, in addition to providing restitution to those who used her services and timely file a complaint by the deadline of April 15, 2013.
“We are grateful to the Court for this decision,” Attorney General Bob Cooper said. “Practicing law without a license can lead to extremely serious consequences to those who are dependent upon their legal representative to help them in so many areas of their lives. This is especially true when there can be confusion in the culture or language of those employing a lawyer.”
The State alleged that Salazar prepared immigration petitions, custody agreements and contracts and provided other legal services for primarily Spanish‐speaking consumers at her former business at 2608 Nolensville Road. Salazar is not licensed as an attorney, nor has she worked under the supervision of an attorney, and therefore she is not authorized to engage in the practice of law.
The complaint, filed in June 2011, alleged Salazar has advertised the services of “notario publico” without the legally required notice that a notary public is not a lawyer. In many Spanish‐speaking countries, notaries publicos are civil‐law notaries, and are highly trained, licensed practitioners providing a full range of regulated legal services. The translation of “notary public” in the United States causes substantial confusion, providing the opportunity to mislead consumers regarding the qualifications of a notary public to provide legal services.
Gary Cordell, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs added, “Consumers who paid Martha Salazar or Comunidad Hispana for legal services should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at (615) 741-4737 or toll-free within Tennessee at 1-800-342-8385 before the deadline of April 15, 2013.”
Consumers who used Ms. Salazar’s services are encouraged to call the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office at (615) 741-1671 or toll free within Tennessee at 1-877-275-7396 before the deadline. Because many of Ms. Salazar’s clients are Spanish speaking, the Attorney General’s Office has a Spanish speaking staff member available to talk with victims.
Consumers who have complaints about any other individuals or businesses engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at either of the numbers listed above. You may also file a complaint on line at http://tn.gov/consumer/consCompFrm.shtml.
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[Editor’s note: LawLogix would like to thank the Tennessee State Attorney General’s Office for publishing this release. The full settlement agreement is available here. Please help victims come forward by sharing this article on your social media network.]