NY Nonprofit Upsolve Will Take Right-to-Provide Legal Advice Case to Appeals Court

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · May 29, 2024

Today at 10 a.m. (EDT), attorneys from the Institute for Justice will join New York nonprofit Upsolve at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that providing legal advice is protected by the First Amendment. You can listen online here.

The case at issue concerns Upsolve’s American Justice Movement (AJM)—a project that trains volunteers to give basic legal advice to New Yorkers facing debt collection lawsuits. 

In a given year, some 300,000 residents of New York City alone will be hit with a debt lawsuit. And many of these suits are, to say the least, questionable—brought by third parties that buy up old debts on the secondary market and file suits to collect, even if the defendant doesn’t owe the amount claimed or, sometimes, anything at all. 

Responding to these lawsuits is not that complicated. New York has even created a form that allows people to respond to a debt lawsuit by checking a handful of boxes. But even that form can be complicated for people who have never navigated the legal system. That’s where Upsolve’s AJM comes in. It trains non-lawyers to help New Yorkers fill out the form.

The problem? The sort of advice contemplated by Upsolve’s new project is a crime that could land a volunteer in jail for up to four years for engaging in the “unauthorized practice of law.”

Upsolve sued New York for the right to offer simple legal advice and won a preliminary injunction that has allowed AJM to operate, which means its volunteers have been advising New Yorkers faced with debt lawsuits about their basic legal rights for nearly two years. The New York Attorney General is now asking the appellate court to dissolve that injunction and shutter the program.


May 29th at 10:00 am


Online: https://ww2.ca2.uscourts.gov/court.html
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
Thurgood Marshal Courthouse
Courtroom 1703
40 Foley Square
New York, NY 10007


  • Robert McNamara, Deputy Ligation Director, Institute for Justice
  • Representatives from Upsolve