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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman, 487 U.S. 59 (1988)

Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman

No. 87-399

Argued March 21, 1988

Decided June 20, 1988

487 U.S. 59


Under Virginia Supreme Court Rule 1A:1, qualified lawyers admitted to practice in another State may be admitted to the Virginia Bar "on motion," that is, without taking Virginia's bar examination. The Rule requires, inter alia, that the applicant be a permanent resident of Virginia. Appellee attorney, a Maryland resident who practices and maintains her offices at her corporate employer's place of business in Virginia, applied for admission to the Virginia Bar on motion. The Virginia Supreme Court denied the application for failure to satisfy the residency requirement, concluding that, contrary to appellee's contention, the decision in Supreme Court of New Hampshire v. Piper, 470 U. S. 274, which held that a residency requirement imposed on lawyers who had passed the State's bar examination violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, § 2, of the Federal Constitution, was not applicable in the context of "discretionary" admissions on motion. Appellee then filed suit against the Virginia Supreme Court and its Clerk in Federal District Court, alleging that Rule 1A:1's residency requirement violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause. The court entered summary judgment for appellee, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Virginia's residency requirement for admission to the State's bar without examination violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Pp. 487 U. S. 64-70.

(a) A nonresident's interest in practicing law on terms of substantial equality with those enjoyed by residents is a privilege protected by the Clause. This Court's precedents do not support appellants' contention that, so long as an applicant has the alternative of gaining admission to a State's bar, without regard to residence, by passing the bar examination, the State has not discriminated against nonresidents "on a matter of fundamental concern." The Clause is implicated whenever a State does not permit qualified nonresidents to practice law within its borders on terms of substantial equality with its own residents. Cf. Piper, supra. Appellants' theory that the State could constitutionally require that all bar applicants pass an examination is irrelevant to the question whether the Clause is applicable in the circumstances of this case. The State has burdened the right to practice law, a privilege protected by the

Page 487 U. S. 60

Clause, by discriminating among otherwise equally qualified applicants solely on the basis of citizenship or residency. Pp. 487 U. S. 65-67.

(b) The State has failed to show that its discrimination against nonresidents bears a close relation to the achievement of substantial state objectives. Rule 1A:1's residency requirement cannot be justified as assuring, in tandem with the Rule's requirement that the applicant practice full time as a member of the Virginia Bar, that attorneys admitted on motion will have the same commitment to service and familiarity with Virginia law that is possessed by applicants securing admission upon examination. Lawyers who are admitted in other States and seek admission in Virginia are not less likely to respect the bar and further its interests solely because they are nonresidents. To the extent that the State is justifiably concerned with ensuring that its attorneys keep abreast of legal developments, it can protect such interest through other equally or more effective means that do not themselves infringe constitutional protections. Nor can the residency requirement be justified as a necessary aid to the enforcement of Rule 1A:1's full-time practice requirement. Virginia already requires that attorneys admitted on motion maintain an office in Virginia. This requirement facilitates compliance with the full-time practice requirement in nearly the identical manner that the residency restriction does, rendering the latter restriction largely redundant. Pp. 487 U. S. 67-70.

822 F.2d 423, affirmed.

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, C.J.,filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined, post, p. 487 U. S. 70.

Page 487 U. S. 61

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