Bar studies out-of-state lawyers and lawyer advertising

April 25, 2002

Administrative Office of Courts

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman on Thursday said that the Mississippi Bar may seek new regulations regarding lawyer advertising.

Pittman, addressing the Mississippi Trial and Appellate Judges Spring Conference in Biloxi, said the bar is also studying regulations on the practice of law by out-of-state attorneys.

Pittman noted that the U.S. Constitution does not permit much limitation on advertising. He said a bar committee is expected to "study any possible constitutional constraints we can adopt on advertising."

The Supreme Court would decide whether to adopt any proposed rule changes.

Referring to out-of-state lawyers who practice in Mississippi without being licensed here, Pittman said, "We've got some problems with that. Maybe we can strengthen the reporting."

Out-of-state lawyers not licensed to practice in Mississippi may appear before a Mississippi court as many as five times within a year. It is referred to as appearance pro hac vice, a Latin phrase which means "this time only." Rules governing pro hac vice appearances include a requirement that the lawyer list any other court in the state and the style of the case in which that person appeared as counsel within the past 12 months.

Pittman explained that part of the problem is in tracking pro hac vice appearances.

Pittman also gave an overview of some changes in the state judicial system.

The Code of Judicial Conduct adopted by the Supreme Court on April 4 includes creation of a Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention. The five-member judicial election trouble-shooting team will investigate allegations of campaign misconduct.

Pittman appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Fred L. Banks Jr. of Jackson to the committee. The appointee of the Commission on Judicial Performance is Winona attorney Bill Liston. The remaining three appointees have yet to be named.

Pittman said, "I don't know that this election committee in the Code of Judicial Conduct is going to work, but it is a worthy effort to make sure our elections are dignified and are conducted in a truthful manner."

Pittman called on the trial judges to actively support a proposed constitutional amendment that would extend their terms from four years to six years. Voters in November will decide whether to adopt the constitutional amendment.

Pittman praised the trial judges for work in expediting cases. The Supreme Court adopted advisory time standards for trial courts on Nov. 20, 2001.

Pittman said, "I want to thank you for the work you did in time standards and for the advice you gave."

One of the conference educational sessions, conducted Thursday by Chancery Judge H. David Clark of Forest, dealt with expediting cases. Clark implemented an automated docket management system and local rules of court that incorporate the time standards.

The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals were already required by law to decide cases within 270 days of the filing of the last brief in an appeal. Court of Appeals Judge Leslie King told the conference that his court's decisions are issued quicker - within 190 days. King said, "We will continue to look to see how we can move our cases along."

For more information, contact Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, court public information officer, at 601-354-7452.