RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – The North Carolina State Bar claims a disbarred lawyer from West Virginia charges exorbitant fees and masquerades as a nonprofit while holding himself out as a “criminal justice consultant,” though he cannot provide legal services in the state at all.
The State Bar sued Grover C. Jones Jr. and his wife Patricia W. Jones dba Nationwide Criminal Justice aka Nationwide Criminal Justice & Human Rights Services fka Nationwide Criminal Justice Consulting Services Inc., in Wake County Superior Court.
Patricia Jones is not now and never has been a licensed attorney in North Carolina, the Bar says in its complaint.
Neither has her husband, the Bar says. “[Grover] Jones was licensed to practice law in West Virginia, but his license was ‘annulled’ by the Supreme Court of West Virginia in 1979. (‘Annulment’ is the West Virginia equivalent of ‘disbarment.’) Jones is not currently licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction,” the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
Nonetheless, the Bar says: “Defendants regularly hold themselves out to the public as able to provide post-conviction services to incarcerated criminal defendants.
“Since late 2010, defendants have distributed a brochure advertisement for their services directly to North Carolina inmates and their families. … In their advertising, defendants claim to provide a ‘Second Chance for North Carolina Inmates’ and hold Jones out as a ‘criminal justice consultant.’ Defendants identify Jones as a ‘former state prosecutor’ and a ‘former trial attorney.’ Their advertisement states that they can provide: ‘Services: All types of post-conviction issues, e.g., habeas corpus, transfers, new trials, early release, sentence reductions, medical release, work-release, immigration, religion, pardons, clemencies.’ [sic] The advertisement also states that defendants are: ‘Advocates for: habeas corpus/new trials, [pardons/clemencies] sentence reductions, early releases, and other … post conviction issues for qualifying inmates’ [sic]. Defendants state that the inmates must pay them a ‘reasonable retainer.'” (Emphasis and brackets as in complaint.)
The complaint continues: “Some, if not most, of the services offered by defendants directly to North Carolina inmates and their families are legal services. Sentence reductions and new trials can be obtained only upon a motion to the court. Habeas corpus requires a petition to the court.
“Defendants’ advertisement holds Jones out as having special expertise to assist prisoners with even non-legal services because he has a law degree and is a ‘former’ prosecutor. Defendants do not disclose that Jones was disbarred. Instead, defendants misleadingly state that Jones is a ‘former’ prosecutor and trial lawyer.”
The Bar claims that one inmate paid the defendants $4,500 to prepare “a draft petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. … Defendants used this draft petition to induce (the inmate) to pay an additional $20,000 fee to defendants. Defendants then attempted to collect this fee from (the inmate’s} spouse and family.”
The Bar also claims that the defendants “misleadingly claimed [on their website] that their business is a nonprofit organization. Defendants have not qualified as a tax-exempt or nonprofit organization under any part of the tax code.”
The Bar claims the Joneses and their company violate state law by:
“a. Holding out to members of the public that they or their business can provide post-conviction legal services for incarcerated North Carolina criminal defendants;
“b. Holding out to members of the public that Grover C. Jones is an attorney or is able to provide the services of an attorney;
“c. Preparing legal documents and providing such legal documents directly to the inmate; and
“d. Providing and offering to provide legal advice concerning challenges to convictions directly to inmates.”
The State Bar seeks an injunction barring the defendants from displaying any ads that claim they or their companies may offer legal services, prepare legal documents or contacting attorneys to provide legal services to their customers.
The Bar is represented by its deputy counsel David Johnson.