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NAAMJP Files Lawsuit in Northern District of CA challenging CA District Court's Local Admission Rules

NAAMJP v. USA C11-5481 was filed on November 10, 2011 in the Northern District of California.  The question presented is whether U.S. District Court Local Rules can categorically exclude from general bar admission privileges attorneys licensed in 49 States under the Rules Enabling Act, Supremacy Clause, and the First Amendment.   The Supreme Court has in a related context twice already answered this question in the negative. First, in Frazier v. Heebe, 482 U.S. 641, 648  (1987) the Supreme Court in exercising its supervisory jurisdiction over Local Rules has squarely held complete exclusion of out-of-state attorneys is unnecessary. The Supreme Court held “the location of a lawyer’s office simply has nothing to do with his or her intellectual ability or experience in litigating cases in Federal District Court.”  Id. at 649. Further, the Supreme Court held that the availability of appearance pro hac vice is not a reasonable alternative for an out-of-state attorney who seeks general admission to the District’s Bar.  Id. at 650.

Second, federal law specifically addresses this issue of bar admission on motion. In Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman, 487 U.S. 59 (1988) the Supreme Court held bar admission “on motion” (without examination) is a constitutionally protected Privilege and Immunity for out-of-state licensed attorneys. The norm is comity, and any departure from the norm is subject to strict scrutiny review.

Also highlighted in the complaint are findings and recommendations of the American Bar Association.  The US Supreme court has recognized that ABA standards and recommendations are “guides to determining what is reasonable.” The ABA has explicitly recommended that District Court Local Rules that exclude out-of-state attorneys should be abrogated.  Further, the ABA MJP Commission and ABA Ethics 20/20 Commission have recommended that all states adopt admission on motion.  65,000 lawyers have been admitted on motion in the last ten years.  40,000 in the last five years.

The complaint also challenges the sacred cow, the ultimate taboo, the validity of the California Experienced Attorney Bar Exam.  Five nationally respected testing experts have concluded that California’s subjective licensing test experienced attorneys are required to hurdle is neither a valid nor reliable test.  The standard error of measurement on this licensing test is over 50%.  .

Stay tuned.

Permanent Link: NAAMJP Files Lawsuit in Northern District of CA challenging CA District Court's Local Admission Rules


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