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Judge Seeks Ban on Legal Software

February 2, 1999

HOUSTON (AP) _ A federal judge in Dallas says he plans to ban the sale of self-help legal software in Texas, claiming it amounts to the unauthorized practice of law.

U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders issued a summary judgment on Jan. 22 to prevent Parsons Technology Inc. from distributing future copies of Quicken Family Lawyer and Quicken Family Lawyer ’99 in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported today.

Products already in stores apparently are unaffected by the ruling. An injunction to enforce the ruling could be issued within the next two weeks, lawyers involved in the case said.

Attorneys representing Parsons said they are planning to challenge the ruling and will ask the judge to place the ban on hold, pending a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Consumer groups and industry experts blasted the ruling.

``You can quote me: This is sick. This reeks of greed,″ said Ann Stephens, president of PC Data, a company that tracks the sale of software for personal computers. ``Boy, these lawyers are sticking up for their own, aren’t they? I don’t think they’re representing you or me.″

David Schenck, an appellate lawyer representing Parsons Technology, said that eight states have considered cases against self-help legal publishers, but Texas is the first to opt for a ban.

``Texas is apparently alone in banning books and software according to the judge’s ruling,″ Schenck said. ``Our opinion is the Texas statute doesn’t reach that far and if it did it would violate the First Amendment.″

The do-it-yourself products sell for under $30, and the latest versions offers more than 100 legal forms and instructions on how to file a will, prenuptial agreement, employment contract, real estate lease or similar document.

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