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Media Alerts - National Ass'n for the Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice v. Castille - 3rd Circuit
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September 2, 2015
  National Ass'n for the Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice v. Castille - 3rd Circuit
Headline: Third Circuit Upholds Constitutionality of Pennsylvania Rule Limiting Ability of Out-of-State Attorneys to Gain Admission to Pennsylvania Bar without Taking PA Bar Exam

Area of Law: Constitutional Law

Issues Presented: Whether Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rule 204, which allows an attorney to join the Pennsylvania Bar by motion, is constitutional.

Brief Summary: Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rule 204 ("Rule 204") allows attorneys from other states to be admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania without taking the Pennsylvania Bar exam, provided they meet a number of conditions, including that they have graduated from an accredited law school and that they have either passed the bar or practiced law for a "major Portion" of five of the preceding seven years in a reciprocal state. Reciprocal states are those states which allow Pennsylvania attorneys the same right to be admitted to practice law in their states without needing to pass the bar as Pennsylvania does for their attorneys. This case was brought by attorneys from two states - Maryland and New Jersey - which do not have reciprocity agreements with Pennsylvania. They argued that Rule 204 was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as the First Amendment, the Privileges and Immunities Clause and the Dormant Commerce Clause. The Third Circuit held that Rule 204 does not violate any of these constitutional provisions.

Extended Summary: The plaintiffs' first claim was that Rule 204 violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Among other things, the Equal Protection Clause protects a citizen's fundamental right to travel. The Third Circuit, however, found that Rule 204 does not interfere with that right. Attorneys from non-reciprocal states are still allowed to come and practice law in Pennsylvania - they just need to pass the same bar exam that attorneys from Pennsylvania need to pass. The Court also found that the rule is not subject to heightened scrutiny because it does not discriminate based on a suspect class, such as race, religion or national origin.

Plaintiffs next argued that Rule 204 violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. The Court disagreed. The rule does not discriminate based on the content of the plaintiffs' speech nor does it prohibit professional speech. All it does is require the plaintiffs to take an exam if they wish to act as attorneys in Pennsylvania. Regulation of professional speech is permissible so long as there is a rational connection with the applicant's ability to practice in the profession. A requirement that attorneys take and pass a bar examination certainly meets that test. The Court also found no interference with free association because the plaintiffs were still free to advance their viewpoints and because the rule was not meant to punish them for those viewpoints or for their memberships in bar associations from nonreciprocal states.

Finally, plaintiffs argued that Rule 204 violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV of the United States Constitution, which bars discrimination against citizens of other states based merely on the fact that they are citizens of another state. While the Third Circuit agreed with plaintiffs that the right to practice law is one of the fundamental rights protected by that clause, it still found no violation. The Court noted that in order for the Clause to apply, a state must regulate based on residency status. But that is not what Rule 204 does. It regulates based on an applicant's state of bar membership, not his or her residency. This means that a Pennsylvania resident who is only a member of the New Jersey bar would be just as ineligible for reciprocity treatment under Rule 204 as a resident of New Jersey who is also only a member of the New Jersey bar. Therefore, the Privileges and Immunities Clause does not apply.
Accordingly, the Third Circuit held that Rule 204 was constitutional, thereby affirming the district court judgment.

To see the full opinion, please visit http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/151481p.pdf

Panel (if known): Chagares, Krause, and Barry, Circuit Judges

Argument Date: June 25, 2015

Date of Issued Opinion: August 26, 2015

Docket Number: No. 15-1481

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Sarah Kiewlicz

Counsel: Joseph R. Giannini, Esq. for appellants; Michael Daley, Esq. for appellees

Author of Opinion: Judge Krause

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Supervisor: Prof. Mark Anderson

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 09/02/2015 08:59 AM     3rd Circuit  

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