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December 19, 2020

Language snafu snares relocating lawyer

first_img Language snafu snares relocating lawyer Senior EditorWhen friends ask Lydia Boesch, a California-licensed lawyer who moved to North Carolina in 2001, if she’s taken the bar exam in her new home yet, she has a rueful answer.“I say, ‘No, and you don’t want to know why,’” Boesch said.The problem is Boesch was once licensed in Florida, although she never actually practiced in the state. She allowed the license to lapse since she had no plans to practice in Florida, but now a glitch between Florida Bar and North Carolina rules is hampering her application in North Carolina.On December 12, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order saying under Bar rules it lacks the authority to help, although justices were troubled by the matter. Two called on the Bar to clarify its rules, and two others dissented, saying the court should issue a certificate that would help in her quest to be licensed in North Carolina.Here’s what happened: Boesch, a 1975 business graduate from Florida State University, worked as a CPA in Florida for several years before attending American University in Washington, D.C. She graduated in 1986 and joined The Florida Bar the same year.But she went to work as a staff attorney for a judge on the United States Tax Court in Washington, and then moved to San Francisco in 1989 and went to work for a law firm. She joined the California bar the following year.In 1991, she was given a pro bono award by the San Francisco Bar Association for her aid to the homeless, and in 1992 her work was included in a pro bono video prepared by the ABA on the direction of then-President Sandy D’Alemberte. The city of San Francisco honored her with a “day” for her pro bono work. She had a clean disciplinary record there.“I love practicing law and to be told I can’t practice. . . . I can’t talk about it, I’ll start crying,” Boesch said.Around 1993, Boesch determined she was unlikely ever to practice in Florida and decided to let her membership expire. As contemplated in Bar rules, she could do this by not paying annual membership fees for five years. Accordingly, her Florida Bar membership lapsed in 1998.In 2001, Boesch moved to North Carolina and late that year applied to join the bar there. And her problems began.North Carolina section. 0501 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law requires that the applicant be in good standing in any state or jurisdiction in the U.S. where he or she has been licensed to practice law. That can include being an inactive member.No problem for Boesch and her California membership. But that’s where the “glitch” in Florida Bar rules entered.Even though rules contemplate that it’s perfectly acceptable to resign from the Bar by not paying dues, Rule 1-3.2(a) specifies that members in good standing are only those who are licensed, who have paid annual fees for the current year, and “who are not retired, resigned, delinquent, inactive or suspended members.”Technically, because Boesch left the Bar by becoming delinquent on annual fees, she cannot be designated as in good standing.When Bar officials were approached by Boesch, they were sympathetic, and Bar General Counsel Paul Hill wrote two letters pointing out the Catch 22 of Bar rules. He also noted that under existing rules, there would be no impediment to Boesch applying to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners for readmission to the Bar.But North Carolina officials remained adamant.“The North Carolina rule is that the person must be in good standing in any bar in which he or she has ever been a member,” said Fred P. Parker III, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners. “The information we had received was she [Boesch] would have to go back through the whole process again to be in good standing [in Florida].“Our rules provide that a person can go inactive and be in good standing and that’s fine, but if a person just quits paying dues and is not in good standing, that doesn’t meet the North Carolina rules.”Parker said the North Carolina board notified Boesch about six months ago that she had six months to get in good standing with The Florida Bar.The Florida Bar suggested to Boesch that she seek a certification from the court that she is in good standing with The Florida Bar.In a December 12 two-page order, the court declined. Four justices — Charles Wells, Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, and Raoul Cantero — said the Bar rule was clear — and they lacked the authority to grant the request. In a one-page concurring opinion, Justice Barbara Pariente, joined by Cantero, called on the Bar to address the rule problem, and for North Carolina to reconsider.Justice Leander Shaw, joined by Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead, wrote a 13-page dissent, saying the court traditionally broadly construes such Bar rules, and under a broad reading the court could and should help Boesch.Shaw noted while one rule prohibits members who have been delinquent for five years from being administratively reinstated by the Bar, the rule also provides such members “must be readmitted upon application to and approval by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.”“Although Ms. Boesch no longer was eligible for reinstatement, she nevertheless was in good standing with the Bar in terms of applying for readmission, for the slate had been wiped clean of fee arrearages and outstanding [CLE] course requirements,” Shaw wrote.The court could certify, he argued, that Boesch is in good standing to seek readmission to the Bar, and owes no fees, has no outstanding CLE requirements, and has an unblemished disciplinary record.“This court, in denying Ms. Boesch’s petition, is perpetrating a double injustice. First, the court is working an injustice against Ms. Boesch, for the court is barring an extraordinarily gifted and passionate member of the legal profession from contributing to society in a manner that is commensurate with her abilities and expertise,” Shaw wrote. “Second, the court is working an injustice against society, for the court is depriving society of the substantial services of this highly skilled and nationally recognized advocate of the poor and underprivileged. Instead of interposing a procedural bar that effectively will prevent Ms. Boesch from practicing law ever again in many states, this court should be lauding her exemplary devotion to the legal profession.”Boesch said even though the court technically turned her down, she hopes the order and attached opinions will help. “I’m disappointed this isn’t over, but I’m optimistic I’ve got something to work with,” she said, adding language from Justice Pariente’s concurrence might be enough.Pariente wrote: “The majority has made it clear that the sole reason that this court cannot certify that Ms. Boesch is in good standing with The Florida Bar is because her membership lapsed as a result of nonpayment of dues after a period in excess of five years. Hopefully this will not serve as an impediment to Ms. Boesch’s ability to seek admission to the North Carolina Bar, and I urge the North Carolina Bar to recognize that for its purposes, this court order is a limited certificate.”Parker, of the North Carolina law examiners, said he hadn’t seen the order and the opinions as of Bar News deadline. “When I get a copy of it, I’ll furnish it to the board and let them decide,” he said.If Pariente’s concurrence, and Shaw’s dissent aren’t enough, Boesch said she and her lawyer will likely go to federal court.“This is a violation of my federal civil rights on equal access and due process,” she said. “The U.S. Supreme Court said there has to be a good reason [to deny someone bar admission] and the reason has to be related to fitness to practice.” January 1, 2003 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Language snafu snares relocating lawyerlast_img read more

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