For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For reversal -- None.
The Cape May County Bar Association (later joined by the New Jersey State Bar Association, as intervening plaintiff) brought suit against John Ludlam, charging that he is not a licensed attorney; that he engages in the preparation of legal instruments for others; and that such conduct is unlawful and constitutes the illegal practice of law.
From a summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, permanently enjoining defendant from "engaging in the practice of law by drawing bonds, mortgages, deeds, warrants, releases of mortgages, affidavits and other legal instruments" and further enjoining him "from holding himself out as carrying on and from carrying on a conveyancing business," defendant appealed to the Appellate Division. This Court certified the
matter on its own motion before argument there. R.R. 1:10-1.
The facts are not in dispute. The defendant is the third generation of Ludlams who have searched and abstracted titles, sold title insurance and prepared deeds, bonds, mortgages and other legal instruments in Cape May Court House, New Jersey. The defendant graduated from the University of Virginia and attended one year of its law school. Since his father's death in 1957 he has been the sole proprietor of the business, which he categorizes as a "title searching and conveyancing business." The defendant admits that part of the complaint which charges:
"5. Defendant in the course of his business at the said place draws deeds, bonds, warrants, mortgages, releases of mortgages, affidavits and other legal instruments. In addition defendant carries and holds himself out as carrying on a general business dealing with the conveyancing of real estate. From time to time defendant charges a consideration for the aforesaid services.,"
but denies that such acts constitute the unauthorized practice of law. Any merit there might have been to such a contention was foreclosed by this Court in New Jersey State Bar Ass'n v. Northern N.J. Mtge. Associates, 32 N.J. 430, 444 (1960), where we held that:
"The drawing of legal instruments [ e.g., bonds and mortgages] by the Title Company for others (particularly, where as here, it is compensated) is clearly within the traditional definition of the practice of law and nonetheless so where the drawing consists in the filling in and completion of legal forms."
The practice of law embraces the art of conveyancing, e.g., Washington State Bar Ass'n v. Washington Ass'n, 41 Wash. 2 d 697, 251 P. 2 d 619, 628 (Wash. Sup. Ct. 1953) (concurring opinion); Grand Rapids Bar Ass'n v. Denkema, 290 Mich. 56, 287 N.W. 377, 381 (Mich. Sup. Ct. 1939); In re Opinion of the Justices, 289 Mass. 607, 194 N.E. 313, 317
(Mass. Sup. Jud. Ct. 1935); Childs v. Smeltzer, 315 Pa. 9, 171 A. 883, 885 (Pa. Sup. Ct. 1934), ...