The Florida Bar board of governors voted to seek an injunction against the traffic ticket-fighting startup Tikd for the unlicensed practice of law.
The board voted Dec. 8 to accept a committee recommendation to file litigation asking the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether the startup is violating state rules, bar spokeswoman Francine Walker said.
The Coral Gables-based company launched earlier this year, offering people with minor traffic tickets a way to quickly enter information into a smartphone app and have lawyers contracted by Tikd fight their cases.
A knock-down, drag-out fight ensued with the 30-year-old ticket defense law firm The Ticket Clinic. The firm sued Tikd, claiming the startup was holding itself out as a law firm and paying court fines for customers, something an attorney is not allowed to do. Tikd sued back, saying The Ticket Clinic was calling lawyers and scaring them out of doing business with Tikd.
Both cases were withdrawn as the Florida Bar investigation made its way through circuit and statewide committees on the unlicensed practice of law. But then Tikd sued both The Ticket Clinic and the Florida Bar for $11 million for allegedly colluding to drive Tikd out of business.
After the Ticket Clinic issued a press release announcing the board of governors’ vote, Tikd founder Chris Riley said he had heard nothing from the bar and “it looks as if the Ticket Clinic once again has access to confidential proceedings by the board of governors.”
“This is just another example of the system Tikd is struggling against,” Riley said in an email. “Groups of rich lawyers hide behind closed doors in expensive hotels and play favorites in order to allow their fellow ‘elites’ to do as they please—flaunting the very code of ethics that they are charged with enforcing, all while claiming immunity from action.”
The vote was taken in an open session, Walker said. The rules on the unlicensed practice of law do not appear to require the bar to notify a respondent to a complaint that is under investigation. If the Florida Supreme Court decides to move a case forward, it will issue an order to show cause to the respondent.
The Ticket Clinic founder Mark Gold said he believes Tikd’s entire business model is based on violations of bar rules.
“This is a Pandora’s box, a slippery slope,” Gold said Wednesday in a statement. “If allowed, Tikd is the first of many nonlawyers attempting to cash in on the legal profession without the supervision required by the Florida Bar.”