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The Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states to the federal government that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." And, the Fourteenth Amendment uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to extend that command to all states. These words were our founding fathers' promise that all levels of American government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures.
The Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments to the Constitution – were included for the sole purpose of protecting citizens' rights from our own government. The states would never have become united had these protections been left out, we would never have become the United States of America without the bill of rights ensuring the freedoms we enjoy.
In 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the NC Board of Dental Examiners, in what is known as the "Teeth Whitening Case". The central question is whether the board of dental examiners was a government body and intent on restricting trade. In short, whether the Board of Dental Examiners was operating an illegal monopoly. There are parallels between these circumstances and this case and the relationship between legal document preparers and the Florida Bar. Watch the video and draw your own conclusions.
It is up to us to protect our rights diligently and continuously. It is up to each of us to constantly be aware of the minor compromises, the daily chipping away of our rights, lest our freedoms all disappear. Our public servants are called servants for a reason. I am not promoting the idea that as citizens we have the right to be unnecessarily arrogant and demanding toward our bureaucrats. But, we do have the right, even the obligation to question the authority of those who would prevent us from seeking our legal rights. If a court clerk acts as gatekeeper understand that the court clerk is overstepping responsibility. If a court clerk refuses to accept documents, ask why. Some clerks seem to enjoy acting as petty tyrants; others seem to act out of ignorance. Still other clerks seem to be motivated by fear. Some clerks will respond to the most innocuous of questions – so sorry, I am not allowed to give legal advice.
If a pro se litigant and asks a court clerk what to do next, he will very likely be referred to the law library, or told to hire an attorney. If that same pro se litigant has done his homework, found his information, and, instead, asks the clerk: The other party has filed their response to my petition, are there any local rules or procedures that I need to know before I schedule a court date? What happens next is the real question, but wording the question to show that specific information is requested, not advice, usually results in a reasonable answer from the clerk. Our system is not flawless. But, I, along with most Americans believe that our system of government and our country are the greatest in the world. At the same time, as a young country, still only a few hundred years old, we have much to learn from others.
It is up to each of us to stand firm in our resolve. We are at the crossroads of history. The legal services that were once the exclusive domain of attorneys are no more. Now, as never before, everyday people can find information about the law. The balance has shifted. Just as the internet changed the way realtors do business, so has the internet changed the way attorneys must deliver services.
Legal document preparers are here to stay.
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