– First lawsuit that challenges repetitive bar exam licensing based on testing Standards –
LOS ANGELES, CA – Lawyers For Fair Reciprocal Admission filed a lawsuit against the United States in the United States District Court in Trenton, N.J, docket number 3:22cv-02399. The complaint seeks to invalidate local Rules in two-thirds of the 94 United States District Courts that deny general admission privileges to out-of-state licensed attorneys. These challenged local Rules limit general bar admission to home-state licensed attorneys. This discrimination in favor of in-state citizens over out-of-state citizens does not occur in the Supreme Court, United States Courts of Appeal, or practice before federal administrative agencies.
The American Bar Association has studied reciprocal lawyer licensing in open public hearings all over the United States. The ABA has concluded that “one bar exam is enough” and that licensed lawyers have already demonstrated their competence and that they are not a threat to the public. The ABA has recommended that District Courts and all States should adopt admission for licensed lawyers without taking another bar exam.
“With the onset of the pandemic, technology advances allowing and encouraging people to work remotely, and the well-known justice gap, more and more lawyers have questioned the rite of passage requiring them to reinvent the wheel every time they travel over a state boundary line,” says Joseph Robert Giannini, Counsel for Lawyers For Fair Reciprocal Admission.
The lawsuit cites multiple testing expert conclusions that bar exams are not valid, reliable, or a fair measurement of attorney competence as it is almost impossible to get graders to agree on subjective tests. Multiple choice tests are equally unfair as Google has democratized information and the practice of law is open book. Many practice specialties are not tested on any state bar exam.
The lawsuit further alleges claims based on recent Supreme Court decisions under the First Amendment freedoms to speech, association, and to petition the government with counsel for the redress of grievances, the separation of powers doctrine, the full faith and credit statute, and the right to travel.