Rule change increases reporting of out of state lawyers

April 15, 2003

A new method of tracking out-of-state attorneys representing clients in Mississippi has improved reporting.

The Supreme Court in January revised a rule governing the practice of law by attorneys who are not licensed in Mississippi. Revisions to Rule 46 of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure became effective March 1.

In the month and a half since the revisions became effective, 98 out of state attorneys representing clients in Mississippi trial and appellate courts and before administrative agencies have registered with the Supreme Court. By comparison, the Supreme Court received notification of involvement of 48 out of state attorneys during the months of January and February. The Supreme Court received notification of involvement by 245 out of state attorneys in cases during the entire year 2002.

Supreme Court Clerk Betty Sephton said the rate of involvement by out of state attorneys hasn't changed, but the reporting has improved. Participation "is just being reported in a much more efficient manner," Sephton said.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman said it's important to know who is practicing law in Mississippi courts.

"Part of it is plain old consumer protection," Pittman said. "You want to assure the public that the people are members of the bar and have an acquaintance with the law."

Pittman last year asked the Mississippi Bar to study the practice of law by out of state attorneys and to make recommendations. The Supreme Court revised the rules governing out of state attorneys in response to a petition filed by the Mississippi Bar.

A lawyer licensed in another state may obtain permission of a judge to represent a client in a Mississippi trial court or appellate court or before an administrative agency without having to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar. The process is known as being admitted to practice pro hac vice. A lawyer may be admitted to practice pro hac vice in no more than five cases within a year.

Before the rule was revised, tracking pro hac vice admissions presented problems. Pittman said, "Nobody was in a position to enforce that rule."

The rule revisions made the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court responsible for tracking pro hac vice appearances, and required that a trial court obtain a report from the Supreme Court before granting a pro hac vice appearance.

Fees assessed to pro hac vice lawyers are being used to provide civil legal services to the indigent. The rule requires that out of state lawyers pay $200 to the Mississippi Bar for indigent representation, as well as a $25 fee to the Supreme Court.

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