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NAACP Sue Pa. High Court For State Bar Access

The National Association for the Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice, filed  on December 13, 2103, docket 2:13-cv-07382, in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and his associate justices. The suit alleges Pennsylvania is violating the constitutional rights of NAAMJP members, the constitutional rights of Pennsylvania citizens, and the constitutional rights of attorneys who are licensed in the dozen states that Pennsylvania does not have reciprocity with.

Complaint paragraph 1 states:

The injustice in this case can be understood by analogy.  Assume the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles wants to retain the best quarterback.  He chooses either San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick or Baltimore Raven Joe Flacco to be his quarterback, the representative face of his franchise.  Both quarterbacks are available free agents wanting to play for the Eagles.  In America — our pledge of allegiance is “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”   Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick are free to play for the Eagles, or the Pittsburgh Steelers, or any other professional football team.   But if they are lawyers by profession, they cannot play or represent clients in the Keystone State under Pa. B.A.R. 204.  The sole reason they are denied the Privileges and Immunities of American citizenship is because they come from non-reciprocity states.  If lawyers Kaepernick and Flacco, however, are from 38 other states and the District of Columbia that Pennsylvania has reciprocity with, they can practice law in Pennsylvania.  But since they come from one of the 12 non-reciprocity states, and although they are admittedly otherwise qualified, they are deprived of their citizenship rights by Pa. B.A.R. 204, injuring them, and depriving Pennsylvania citizens of their professional services.

Plaintiffs assert Pa. B.A.R. 204 in practical effect is unlawful retaliation, arbitrary and irrational serving no legitimate state interest, archaic, and unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs argue Pa. B.A.R. 204 cannot even pass a rational basis standard of review because the classification between reciprocity and non-reciprocity states are expressly drawn for the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by the law.  Rule 204 has nothing what-so-ever to do with merit or competence.  The group burdened are the citizens and residents of the states that have not yet adopted the ABA’s recommendation for reciprocal admission on motion for all experienced attorneys.  The irrationality of the Rule is self-evident.  Plaintiff Richard Rosario was admitted by bar exam fresh out of law school in Maryland and Washington DC, at the same time. He was many years later denied Pennsylvania admission on motion solely on the ground that his Maryland (non-reciprocity state) practice garnered more revenue than his six-figured District of Columbia (reciprocal jurisdiction) practice.

Pa. B.A.R. 204 is further unconstitutional because the United States Supreme Court has squarely held bar admission on motion is a constitutionally protected privilege and immunity, and that discrimination against otherwise qualified attorneys on the basis of state residence or citizenship is unconstitutional.  Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman, 487 U.S. 59 (1998).  In Friedman, the Supreme Court rejected every justification Virginia proffered for its discrimination in bar admission on motion against out-of-state attorneys; including the Virginia Supreme Court argument that the attorney’s privilege and immunity to practice law was not abridged because Ms. Friedman could take an examination and, upon passing, she could gain the right to practice law. Id. at 67. The norm under the Privileges and Immunities Clause is comity, i.e. equal treatment. Id. at 64.   Pa. B.A.R. 204 obviously violates the norm. It has the practical effect of impeding interstate travel and handicapping the exercise of First Amendment rights — in order to retaliate against American citizen-lawyers who are residents and citizens from the disfavored states.

In this 21st Century it is our manifest destiny that lawyers and judges must free themselves of this petty tit-for-tat parochial practice.

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