High court disbands commission
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The Montana Supreme Court has abolished an unfunded commission that for nearly 35 years handled cases of people practicing law without a license. The state attorney general's Office for Consumer Protection agreed to take on the duties of the Commission on the Unauthorized Practice of Law after the body was dissolved Tuesday. The Supreme Court - appointed commission had filed a petition last year asking the court to reduce its scope because it receives no state funding and can't afford to carry out investigations. The State Bar of Montana supported the commission with a budget of about $1,000 a year and an all-volunteer board. The slim budget limited the commission's response to complaints to largely sending out affidavits to those accused of practicing law without a license, asking them to sign that they would stop, said Marie Connolly, the state bar's sole staff member who worked on the commission. Only one case has been prosecuted since the commission started in 1976. With anybody able to advertise legal services on the Internet or television, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the commission to perform its duties, Connolly said. "Cases are getting bigger and harder to pursue, and we don't have the resources to pursue them," she said. "We are moving into a different world where it comes to legal services that's going to be hard to control and protect."