Wednesday, January 9, 2002
Task Force Again Rejects Waiver of Bar Exam for Out-of-State Lawyers
By a MetNews Staff Writer
California should continue to require lawyers from other states to pass the bar exam here in order be admitted to State Bar membership, a task force appointed by the state Supreme Court recommended yesterday in its final report.
The major recommendations of the Advisory Task Force on Multijurisdictional Practice are unchanged from the group’s preliminary report, which was released Aug. 1 of last year.
In its final report, the task force chaired by former State Bar President Raymond Marshall reiterated its previous pronouncement that “the public interest would not be served by entirely eliminating the role played by the California bar examination in screening experienced practitioners for admission to the State Bar.”
The panel instead urged a more cautious approach, proposing that some restrictions on California activities by attorneys admitted elsewhere be lifted.
The task force suggested, for example, that out-of-state lawyers residing in California and employed full-time as in-house counsel—other than to organizations providing legal services—be allowed to register with the State Bar under a process similar to admission, but not requiring an examination. These lawyers could not appear in court, but would otherwise be allowed to practice law here on behalf of their employers.
The task force said it “considered permitting experienced out-of-state attorneys who move to California to become members of the State Bar without taking the California bar examination,” but concluded instead “that its other recommendations for change would provide an appropriate first step in assisting clients to meet their needs for legal services in California. “
Opening up full State Bar membership to out-of-state lawyers who haven’t taken the exam, the task force said, would require resolution of difficult questions such as whether to require reciprocity—particularly in light of the fact that many states will not admit California lawyers who have graduated from non-ABA accredited law schools.
The panel did not release a minority report. But some members, including former Los Angeles County Bar Association President Rex Heinke and former State Bar President Andrew Guilford, have previously called for a more flexible approach to admitting out-of-state lawyers.
The panel was created by legislative mandate, set forth in Senate Bill 1782 by Sen. Bill Morrow, R-San Juan Capistrano, a persistent State Bar critic. Morrow did not return a MetNews phone call seeking comment on the report.
Morrow’s bill, in its original form, would have allowed any lawyer licensed in another state and in good standing for at least three years to practice in California. Morrow rewrote the measure to include a task force with the power to implement reciprocity rules, but in its final form—after heavy lobbying by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, among others—the bill called for the purely advisory task force.
Among the task force’s other recommendations:
•Lawyers from other states who are in the process of relocating to California should be allowed to represent indigents as part of “qualified legal services projects” under supervision of a licensed California attorney, while awaiting admission to the State Bar.
•A “safe harbor” should be created for out-of-state lawyers temporarily present in California to advise clients or undertake similar “discrete legal tasks” other than litigation, recognizing existing practice.
•Lawyers from other states should be allowed to perform limited legal services in California in anticipation of litigation. The task force noted that out-of-state attorneys may currently be admitted to appear pro hac vice, but this can only happen once suit is filed.
State Bar President Karen Nobumoto yesterday praised the report.
“It’s a good interim approach,” she said. If the recommendations are implemented and work well for the public, broader rules can be considered, she said.
Task force members besides Marshall, Heinke, and Guilford were former State Bar presidents James Towery and Alan Rothenberg; former executive director of the State Bar Steven Nissen, now an aide to Gov. Gray Davis; former State Bar General Counsel Diane C. Yu, who now works for New York University; and retired Second District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Elwood Lui, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue.
Also Cristina Arguedas of Emeryville, past president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice; Ophelia Basgal, executive director of the Alameda County Housing Authority and a former public member of the Commission on Judicial Performance; and Joanne M. Garvey of Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe in San Francisco, who is a member of an American Bar Association Commission studying multidisciplinary practice.
Rounding out the appointees were George’s principal attorney, Beth J. Jay; Second District Court of Appeal Justice Dennis M. Perluss; Senate Republican Caucus policy consultant Mike Petersen; Chief Deputy Attorney General Peter J. Siggins; and Senate Judiciary Committee chief counsel Eugene Wong.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company