Local News

Lawyers: Durham Woman Giving Legal Advice Without License

Posted July 6, 2001 12:38 p.m. EDT

— A Durham woman has been accused of pretending to be a lawyer and taking hundreds of dollars from Hispanics for legal work she never did.

Natalie Gonzalez runs a company called Justicia Para La Paz, or Justice For The Peace. But there has been no justice or peace for the people who say feel victimized.

Attorney Frances Miranda-Watkins says her client paid Gonzalez $800 to hand a DWI charge, but Gonzalez did not do the work.

"My client understood that he was hiring an attorney...whether or not that's what she communicated is another story," she says.

She also says Gonzalez is not qualified to practice law. She is now trying to clear up her client's legal problems.

For two years, the Durham County Public Defenders Office has been concerned about the Justice For The Peace organization, and has told them not to contact their clients.

"I asked her exacty what she was doing," said assistant Public Defender Lawrence Campbell. "She indicated she ran a non-profit business that was assisting Hispanic clients...involved in the legal process."

Many Durham lawyers are concerned that Gonzalez is giving legal advice without a license.

"There are a lot of problems with that," says Watkins. "If you're not licensed to practice law, you could be giving advice that's not appropriate, and a aperson's liberty could be at stake. [That's] the case with the gentleman I'm helping out now."

Gonzalez referred questions to her lawyer but declined to identify him.

The North Carolina Bar Association has received a complaint about Gonzales, and the Durham County District Attorney's Office has also received complaints.