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NAAMJP v. LYNCH, NO. 15-1982

Decided: June 17, 2016

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court in granting the motion to dismiss.

The National Association for the Advancement of Multijurisdictional Practice (NAAMJP) challenged the conditions placed on the admission to the Bar of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in Local Rule 701. Rule 701 governs attorney admission to practice in the district court. The Rule contains requirements based on the state of licensure and the location of the attorney’s office. The Rule allows for admission of attorneys licensed in the State of Maryland. Admission to non-Maryland attorneys extends only to attorneys in states whose district courts observe reciprocity with the District Court. Regardless of reciprocity, however, the District will not admit a non-Maryland attorney if that attorney maintains a law office in Maryland. NAAMJP described Rule 701 as being discriminatory, monopolistic, balkanizing, and unconstitutional. NAAMJP sued the Attorney General and each of the judges on the District Court, challenging the validity of Rule 701. The Defendants moved to dismiss, and NAAMJP moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion to dismiss and denied NAAMJP’s motion for summary judgment. NAAMJP appealed.

In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must state facts that, when accepted as true state a claim of relief that is plausible on its face. NAAMJP challenges the validity of Rule 701 under the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, the Rules Enabling Act, and the Supremacy Clause. In regards to the First Amendment, Rule 701 is simply a regulation of a profession. The Rule does not compel attorneys to speak or regulate speech based on its content. Rule 701 qualifies as a generally applicable licensing provision and therefore does not violate the First Amendment. In regard to the Equal Protection Clause, Rule 701 does not infringe a fundamental right or disadvantage a suspect class. Applying rational basis review, Rule 701 passes constitutional muster. The rationales of promoting bar memberships for attorneys located in Maryland are plausible, and NAAMJP does not bear its burden in negating the legitimate government purpose. NAAMJP did not cite in cases to support their Equal Protection argument. In regards to the Rules Enabling Act, Rule 701 prescribes a rule for the District Court for the conduct of its business on which attorneys may practice before it. The Rule does not violate any Acts of Congress or any federal rules of practice and procedure adopted by the Supreme Court, thus Rule 701 does not violate the Rules Enabling Act. In regards to the Supremacy Clause, the court stated it was not applicable because Rule 701 is a federal rule prescribed pursuant to a federal statute. Rule 701 does not violate the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, the Rules Enabling Act, or the Supremacy Clause so the court affirmed the decision of the district court in granting the motion to dismiss.

Full Opinion

Ryan Jones