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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Lawyers Lose Arizona Reciprocity Challenge

PHOENIX (CN) - The 9th Circuit upheld a requirements that attorneys take Arizona's bar exam to practice there, even if licensed to practice in various other states.

The National Association for the Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice and two lawyers admitted outside of Arizona brought the challenge two years ago against the Arizona Supreme Court.

They said Arizona's reciprocal attorney-admission rule unconstitutionally required experienced attorneys "to take and pass another state's bar exam."

While Arizona provided full admission to lawyers from nine "favored states," the standard had "nothing to do with protecting the public and everything to do with retaliation under color of state law and providing local lawyer monopoly protection," the lawsuit alleged.

In the complaint, Allison Girvin, a lawyer who practiced in California from 2005 to February 2012 before moving to Arizona, claimed she was forced to take work as a legal assistant while studying for Arizona's bar exam.

Despite an "impeccable track record," another attorney - Mark Anderson - said in the suit that Arizona also would not let him practice without taking the state bar exam.

A federal judge in Phoenix dismissed the action, and the 9th Circuit affirmed Monday, finding no violation of First Amendment or of the equal-protection clause because attorneys can be admitted to practice law in Arizona by passing the entrance exam.

"By honoring reciprocal bar requirements, the state of Arizona helps to ensure that its attorneys are treated equally in other states," Judge Milan Smith Jr. wrote for a three-judge panel. "States that share reciprocity with Arizona will likely continue to admit Arizona-barred attorneys on motion because members of the bar in those states are eligible for reciprocal privileges in Arizona."

Arizona's rule does not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause either, the court found.

"Arizona imposes the same bar admission requirements on its own citizens as it does on citizens of other states," Smith wrote. "If a citizen of Arizona is admitted to the bar in a state that does not share reciprocity with Arizona, then the attorney is not eligible to be admitted to the Arizona Bar on motion, irrespective of the attorney's residency or citizenship status."

Judges Dorothy Nelson and Barry Silverman concurred.

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