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February 18, 1997

Unlicensed Law Case Alive But Slow

by David Underhill

If the two local lawyers accused of being lawyers did not receive a sufficient education in law school about the operations of the legal system, they're getting it now. Larry D. Simpson and Jerry H. Pogue were arrested in December and charged with the unlicensed practice of law, or with aiding each other in the commission of this misdemeanor, or both. If eventually convicted, they could be jailed for six months and fined $500.

But when is eventually? In January both went before the judge, Dominick Matranga, but little happened and they were ordered to return early this month. They did, but little happened and they were ordered to return next month. That's how the legal system operates.

Meanwhile, they've been peppering the court with motions: for dismissal of the charges and erasure of arrest records; for trial by jury, unusual in misdemeanor cases; for discovery of the evidence and witnesses against them; for a change of venue because of accusatory coverage in the daily newspaper.

SimpsonandPogueconcedetheyhave practiced law. They add that they're proud of their street-level work done over many years, mostly on behalf of inner-city residents with scant money and little acquaintance with the world of downtown high-rise attorneys. Both are law school graduates and members of the Universal Bar Association, headquartered in Montgomery. They say they've never presented themselves to any client or court as members of the Alabama Bar Association.

Some Universal Bar Association members from Birmingham and Montgomery came to Mobile for Pogue's and Simpson's brief court appearance this month. Others around the state, with a supportive interest in the issues raised by a prosecution for being an unlicensed lawyer, have approach the pair of defendants with offers of help. They are also in contact with individuals and groups pursuing similar cases in several states.

On the other side stands an array of members from officially approved legal circles. The front page of the state bar association's newsletter, Addendum, February, 1997, features the tale of Simpson's capture at the court house (Pogue was not present but turned himself in later). It says, "The arrest resulted from a combined effort of McKnight [chair of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee], the court hearing the domestic suit [a divorce case in which Simpson and Pogue were representing a man who had signed a power of attorney document authorizing them to do so], the Mobile County District Attorney, and the state bar, who had been investigating Simpson for some time.

These opposing alignments will be battling for their share of legal turf when Simpson and Pogue stand trial, which is now scheduled for March. The event may or may not actually happen then.

Further delays are possible, as usual. That's how the legal system operates.

The Harbinger, Mobile, AL