Elias Bermudez sued for unauthorized practice of law
By Linda Bentley | June 25, 2008
'I am a private business that helps individuals … with filling up forms’
PHOENIX – A few weeks ago Sonoran News received an e-mail asking in the subject line: “Did you know about ‘Dr. Bermudez?’”
The e-mail contained the following link to a video from MyLatinoNews.com of “Dr. Elias Bermudez,” talking about the plight of illegal aliens. http://video.aol.com/video-detail/mylatinonewscom-dr-elias-bermudez/753876587.
He begins the video discussing how he came to the United States as an illegal alien but was able to become legal after finding a beautiful girl to marry.
Bermudez said he was outraged because 4,000 vehicles had been impounded only because the drivers were here illegally and driving without valid licenses, sometimes leaving entire families stranded on the side of the road.
He then tells the story about a man and his young daughter trying to flee from the border patrol in Yuma by hiding in some brush. They were subsequently run over by the border patrol agent who didn’t see them. According to Bermudez, the daughter died and when her father was released from the hospital, recovering from his injuries, he was told he was being charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of his daughter, which Bermudez also thought was outrageous.
For starters, Bermudez isn’t a doctor. He runs businesses called Emigrantes Sin Fronteras (Immigrants without Borders) and Centro de Ayuda Para Emigrantes (Help Center for Immigrants), which he advertizes as, “Specializing in Immigration Proceedings, Taxes and Translations.”
Both started out as nonprofit organizations that were dissolved by the Arizona Corporation Commission for failure to file annual reports. Neither organization is registered with the IRS as a nonprofit; they are simply registered as trade names with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
Bermudez is also not a lawyer.
In April the Arizona State Bar filed a complaint against Bermudez after previously being asked on multiple occasions to cease the unauthorized practice of law.
In 2003, a new law went into effect requiring people who assist others with filling out legal forms to become certified as a legal document preparer.
On June 24, 2003, Bermudez and his company were denied initial certification. A hearing was held the following month where the Board of Legal Document Preparers upheld the denial of Bermudez’s certification based on his 1995 class C felony conviction for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
According to Kimberly Siddall, certification specialist in the compliance unit, the business application was deferred pending re-submittal of the application with a different principal.
No re-submittal has been made to date.
However, Bermudez is a notary, which is interesting since convicted felons cannot become notaries unless they’ve had their rights restored and even then approval of their application depends on the nature of the crime.
Well, Bermudez hasn’t had his rights restored. In fact, at the time he applied to become a notary in Maricopa County, he had not yet paid his $2,000 fine to the court.
According to the secretary of state’s office, the only way a convicted felon, who has not had his rights restored, could become a notary is if he falsified his application.
The complaint alleges Bermudez was aware he was not authorized to provide the services for which he was hired and states, “Respondent, nonetheless, has prepared legal documents, expressed legal opinions and given legal advice on behalf of another since July 31, 2003, when the Supreme Court Rules regarding the unauthorized practice of law became effective.”
The state bar provided Bermudez with an opportunity to respond in writing to its Sept. 20, 2007 notice of the charge he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law or confirm he would comply with the request to cease engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Although he did not accurately address the complaint received by the bar, Bermudez stated “… filing immigration forms does not fall under the jurisdiction of the practice of law … I am a private business that helps individuals with information on immigration processes and with filling (sic) up forms.”
After the state bar provided Bermudez with a second notice and opportunity to respond to the charge he had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law or to confirm he would comply with the request to cease engaging in the unauthorized practice of law by signing a Memorandum of Understanding, Bermudez failed to respond.
The state bar asserts Bermudez “is aware of the rules regarding unauthorized practice of law and continues to disregard them.”
In conclusion, the state bar reiterated Bermudez is fully aware that he is not authorized to engage in the practice of law, and wrote, “However, he continues to engage in the unauthorized practice of law and has demonstrated he will continue to violate Supreme Court Rule 31 by engaging in the unauthorized practice of law unless the court issues an injunction prohibiting him from such conduct.
In April 2008, a Notice of Trustee’s Sale was recorded for property purchased last June for $499,900 by Bermudez, his wife Dora Figueroa and a woman named Vanessa Baler.
The property, located at 3410 N. 34th Street in Phoenix, is scheduled for auction at 2 p.m. on July 2.
Photo Courtesy Cronkite News Service/Daniel J. Quigley