Lawmakers are back in Olympia today for the start of the legislative session. Two bills requested by Attorney General Rob McKenna are scheduled for public hearings this week. They aim to save taxpayers money and protect immigrants from poor legal advice.
Consumer Protection Enforcement
Washington is the only state in the nation that awards defendants attorney fees in a government enforcement action without requiring a determination that the state’s case was frivolous or malicious. HB 1032, prime-sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, permits reasonable attorney fees for a defendant only upon a finding by a judge that the state’s action was frivolous. It also makes it clear that that the Consumer Protection Act applies to Washington businesses that deal only with out-of-state consumers. The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the bill at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12, in the O’Brien Building, Hearing Room A.
Unauthorized Practice of Law Affecting Immigrants
A flaw in state law allows seemingly government-approved “immigration assistants” to charge for help even when they’re not qualified to offer legal advice. Their mistakes can delay or ruin a customer’s chances of obtaining legal status. SB 5023 sponsored by Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Seattle, eliminates the state’s “immigration assistant” designation. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the bill at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14, in the Cherberg Building, Hearing Room 1.
Each proposal also has a companion bill in the opposite house. More information on the Attorney General’s proposed legislative package is available online at www.atg.wa.gov/2011Legislation.aspx.