I hate sharing these kinds of stories, in part because I always want to know why the alleged culprit is described as a paralegal. Most of the time, the news media doesn’t address the paralegal’s training or qualifications – or if there are even any to address. But it’s not like these credentials are public record.
In this case, the criminal defendant told the court he’s a paralegal, and tada, that’s what he is to the world. The problem is that this self-described paralegal is accused of posing as a lawyer in a fraudulent real estate deal. Why can’t we just call him a law firm employee with extremely poor judgment – at least until we have more information?
Maybe it’s because in most parts of this country, without regulation or licensing, anyone can call himself a paralegal.
MSNBC.com reports that William Staton, a Philadelphia man working for a Bensalem law firm, was jailed last week on charges of theft by deception and receiving stolen property. A local police investigation revealed Staton transacted to sell a home he did not actually own to a couple for $9,750, also claiming in the purchase contract that the property was free of liens. Public records show there are $7,814.15 in liens against the property for back property taxes. Court records indicate there are bank surveillance photos showing Staton cashing the cashier’s check from the sale.
According to MSNBC, the court had little sympathy for Staton, a single parent, during his arraignment:
Staton, who admitted he has a criminal past, told [District Judge Daniel] Baranoski he thought the matter was resolved and asked for low bail so he could provide for his two children.
The judge set Staton’s bail at $100,000.
If Staton did have a supervising attorney, there’s no mention of that attorney’s role in his hiring and supervision. You have to wonder how someone with a criminal record could end up working in a law office, with enough latitude to draft real estate transaction documents and convince the public that he’s an attorney.
And maybe you have to lament the fact that this person gets to spread the paralegal title around like peanut butter.