By Terri Jo Neff
Sheriff’s deputies across Arizona will be able to practice law or form a partnership with an attorney-at-law if House Bill 2763 becomes law, but first the bill has to make it out of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.
The state’s 15 sheriffs and their deputies, along with all constables and their deputies, are currently prohibited from practicing law. They are also prohibited by statute from forming any type of partnership with an attorney.
HB2763 as initially introduced by Rep. Kevin Payne (R-LD21) would have removed all those prohibitions. However, the House Committee on Military Affairs & Public Safety chaired by Payne amended the bill last week to put the prohibition back in place only for sheriffs, constables, and constable deputies.
That would leave deputies working for the 15 county sheriff’s offices with a new career path or investment opportunities, especially now that the Arizona Supreme Court allows nonlawyers to have ownership of or an investment interest in a for-profit law firm.
The supreme court also approved a new category of licensee -a Legal Paraprofessional (LP)- who can represent clients in court in matters of administrative law, family law, debt collection, and landlord-tenant disputes. LPs may also be granted limited jurisdiction for some other civil matters as well as criminal matters.
It’s unclear what position the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training (AZPOST) board takes on Payne’s legislation, which could lead to questions of conflict of interest and financial motivation.
If HB2768 clears the Rules Committee it still has to clear the full House and then the Senate before getting to Gov. Doug Ducey.