NAAMJP v. Berch

Class Actions – Standards and Cases
Case Description: 

This appeal is from a federal district court decision upholding a rule of the Supreme Court of Arizona conditioning the ability of out-of-state attorneys to be admitted by motion on the willingness of the state in which they are currently licensed to admit attorneys from Arizona by motion. In sustaining the reciprocity requirement, the district court relied solely on defendants’ assertion that the rule “serves the interest of encouraging other states to admit Arizona attorneys on similar terms.” The defendants did not assert, and the court did not find, that the rule provides any additional protection for the public.

Public Citizen submitted an amicus brief in the appellate court explaining that the reciprocity requirement is unlawful under the Commerce Clause. The rule places barriers on the ability of lawyers to move or expand their practices from one jurisdiction to another, solely because of the happenstance of whether the jurisdiction in which they currently practice is open to having lawyers from other states become members of that bar without taking a bar exam. Second, the reciprocity requirement has the inevitable effect of limiting client choices in selecting among otherwise qualified lawyers, thereby increasing costs, requiring clients to retain their second choice of counsel, or both.