An advocacy group for lawyers is challenging how the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia admits out-of-state lawyers to the court's bar.
The National Association for the Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice, a public benefit corporation based in Los Angeles, filed a complaint on Dec. 10 in the federal trial court in Washington challenging the rules for out-of-state lawyers. The association claims a rule limiting which lawyers can waive in—based on what other bars they belong to—is discriminatory.
The federal court in Washington allows lawyers to waive in if they belong to a federal court bar that allows members of the D.C. court to waive in. According to the court's website, 25 of the 94 U.S. district courts nationwide offer reciprocal admission to members of the D.C. court's bar. The 25 courts are located in 15 states.
The association claims the rule violates the First Amendment speech and petition rights of lawyers admitted to federal courts that don't offer reciprocal admission to the D.C. court. The plaintiffs also allege the rule violates the Fifth Amendment because it "discriminates among otherwise equally qualified sister-state attorneys in bar admission on motion."
The rule, the group argues in its complaint, "is an antiquated vestige from a bygone era that continues to exist in this 21st Century because of inertia." The complaint names the current judges of the D.C. court. Chief Judge Richard Roberts could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lead counsel for the association, Raymond Carignan, a solo practitioner in Ellicott City, Md., said requiring lawyers to take more than one bar exam is "not rational."
"One bar exam should be enough for anybody," he said. "Once you pass, you ought to be able to go anywhere in the country and practice."
The case has not been assigned to a judge.