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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

An Office to Practice in N.Y? Fuggedaboutit!

MANHATTAN (CN) - New York law requires that all nonresident attorneys maintain an office in the Empire State to practice here, but does a kitchen table in one's apartment qualify?, the 2nd Circuit asked.

The question comes to the federal appeals court after U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn struck down New York Judiciary Law Section 470 as unconstitutional.

Princeton, N.J.-based attorney Ekaterina Schoenfeld had brought the lawsuit against the statute, which requires nonresident lawyers like her to maintain an "office for the transaction of law business" in New York to practice there.

Judge Kahn had found that the law "infringes" the right to practice law as protected by the privileges and immunities clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The 2nd Circuit on Tuesday questioned if the language of the law required "only an address for accepting personal service, which 'might' be satisfied by designating an agent for the service of legal papers."

"The New York Civil Practice Law and Rules of Professional Conduct require, of course, that an attorney be adequately equipped to maintain a certain level of accessibility and communication with clients, but a review of those laws yield no authority specifically requiring New York residents to maintain an office at all," Judge Peter Hall wrote for a three-judge panel. "A New York attorney, therefore, may set up her 'office' on the kitchen table in her studio apartment and not run afoul of New York law."

The federal appeals court seems likely to affirm that the law discriminates against nonresident attorneys, but sought clarification from the state's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.

"In sum, as it stands, it appears that Section 470 discriminates against nonresident attorneys with respect to their fundamental right to practice law in the state and, by virtue of the facts, its limitations on non-resident attorneys implicate the Privileges and Immunities Clause," Hall wrote.

The question asks for clarification of "the minimum requirements necessary to satisfy" the mandate under New York Judiciary Law § 470.

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