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Only in America: Jailhouse Litigators via the Internet

Updated on March 2, 2009

Unlicensed Legal Help

 Perhaps this scenario happens in many other countries, where a veteran inmate for life operates the law library for the prison or jail. Inmates needing legal help go to the library ask how to file paperwork, writs, motions in the correct format. The person running the law library advises each inmate as to the strategy, legal arguments, legal research to support the motion or writ.  This person quickly has a standardized form that he can quickly modify to a specific set of circumstances by rewriting points and authorities etc. The end result is the inmate has a totally accurate motion which he will file with the court to be heard. He saved thousands of dollars. It was a free service inside a prison because in America, all inmates have a legal right to a law library.

The jailhouse attorney are not idiots. They can equal some of the top criminal law litigators without law school, without being licensed, without passing a Bar exam. How? They have nothing else to do but go to the law library and learn it inside and out. It is a challenge for them, to beat the system, to beat a real litigator. All prisons and jails have a law library. Most have fairly up to date books and case law.

In Los Angeles, a former convict and jailhouse litigator has taken it to a real business on the internet and is so busy with clients that would make any law firm jealous.Larry Levine and his associates work out of an apartment filled with law books. When he first receives a call, he makes a point to announce that he is not a licensed attorney. The caller could care less, so Larry will begin providing legal advice, which happens to be against the law. Some members are dis-barred attorneys, self trained lawyers or former prison legal assistants. Larry, 47, charges anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands to explain what the client needs to do etc. depending on how complicated the case is. The difference is that Larry does not sign anything, only the client signs the motion.

Larry has quite a renowned reputation. He spend many years in the Federal prison for violation of Federal Law (like conterfeit money). For those in foreign countries, the US has several levels of jails: Federal, State (felonies), County (misdemeanor) and City (temporary, minor infractions). Larry during his prison days became famous with the Federal prison system when he won a class action suit about solitary confinement. During his prison days, payment for his services would be cigarettes, candy etc. Now, he is on probation, he earns about $100,000 from his 40 clients. He has outsourced material to two others litigators living in the Phillippines.

Contact with the client is minimal and never in person as this might land him back in prison. Larry even has a most unique guarantee when a client asks him, "how do I know I can trust you"? Larry replies, " all you have to do is tell my probation officer".

The inmates in the Federal prisons are more white collar and professional. One client is 33 yr old home builder that made $20,000,000 in bogus construction loans in a mortgage fraud and kickback scheme. He was charged with 20 counts of bank fraud in Federal Court and faced 30 yrs in Federal prison. After he hired Larry and was advised, the client plead guilty to one count (after a deal was made) and got a 3.5 yr sentence!

The client simply "googled" the key words of: prison time and help. Only in America. Will Larry be able to continue with his biz? I would think not once his probation officer finds out because Larry is practicing law without a license, even though he really does help many.

There is nothing worse to a judge or licensed attorney to be out manuevered by someone like a jail litigator, legally speaking. You can never just take them for granted because one can be a top notch attorney without law school and focusing only a specific type of law to practice. Larry is one of them.

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    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      yup, could be worse!

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      9 years ago

      This time, he's got his own biz on the internet and his probation has no clue. $100K is decent money even for an attorney especially when no court appearances, etc.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      I don't think only in America - you get paralegals and non-qualified legal types all over the world, surely?

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