A man’s rights group has filed a lawsuit against lawyers in the United States seeking to halt their work on behalf of clients in a case that could make it easier for them to obtain a divorce.
The lawsuit filed on Monday in a California federal court by the American Bar Association Legal Aid Society (ABALS) seeks to bar lawyers from assisting with a divorce because of the high rates of non-compliance in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the state’s mandatory reporting laws do not provide for adequate due process protections.
The court’s ruling last year in Fisher v.
Bourgeois, which set the legal standard for divorce proceedings, said that state-mandated reporting laws did not give lawyers sufficient due process protection.
The suit said the ABALS had “engaged in a campaign of discrimination” by asking state lawyers to assist clients in divorces with the intention of forcing the state to pay for their lawyers’ fees.
The ABAALS lawsuit is the first to target lawyers in a state, which is considered the nation’s leading divorce provider, said John G. Paretti, an attorney at the law firm of Parelli, Breslin, Lefebvre, & Grosvenor who represents plaintiffs in the suit.
Lawyers who have assisted in divorcing couples often do not get a break in the amount of time they have to file their divorces, he said.
“When a person is seeking a divorce, the court’s job is to provide due process and that is the same as what it was for the state,” said Parello, who has represented clients in divorce cases before the U.C.L.A.A.’s Bar Counsel Association.
“In a state where the bar is very much in the background, it’s very difficult for lawyers to help a client because they don’t know the law,” he said, adding that lawyers must comply with all state and federal rules that govern the profession.
“I think that’s the real issue,” Pareillo said.
He said it was common for lawyers in other states to help clients in similar situations, but not the situation in California, where lawyers have had the upper hand in cases that involve complicated financial situations.
“We’re seeing a very serious problem of discrimination in a legal profession,” he added.
The plaintiffs in Fisher said in their complaint that in the past decade, lawyers in California have filed more than 13,000 divorce cases involving about $5 billion in assets.
The attorneys in the case are seeking monetary relief from the court for attorneys who did not participate in their representation.
ABAAS said in its complaint that it “has a long history of litigation against lawyers and their practices” and that it has sought to deter its lawyers from engaging in this practice in California.