658 Fed.Appx. 127 (3rd Cir. 2016), 15-3356, National Assiciation for Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice v. Simandle
|Citation:||658 Fed.Appx. 127|
|Opinion Judge:||JORDAN, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF MULTIJURISDICTION PRACTICE, (NAAMJP); ROBERT VEREB; BENJAMIN JOSEF DOSCHER, Appellants v. JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; MARY L. COOPER; JOEL A. PISANO; PETER G. SHERIDAN; MICHAEL SHIPP; ANNE E. THOMPSON; FREDA L. WOLFSON; RENEE MARIE BUMB...|
|Attorney:||For National Association For The Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice, (Naamjp), Robert Vereb, Benjamin Josef Doscher, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Joseph R. Giannini Esq., Los Angeles, CA. For JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief Judge, United States, District Court for the District of New Jersey, Defenda...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: SMITH, JORDAN, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||July 14, 2016|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit|
Submitted Under Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) July 11, 2016.
This opinion is not regarded as Precedents which bind the court under Third Circuit Internal Operating Procedure Rule 5.7. (See Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure Rule 32.1)
On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (D.C. No. 1-14-cv-3678). District Judge: Hon. Gerald A. McHugh.
For National Association For The Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice, (Naamjp), Robert Vereb, Benjamin Josef Doscher, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Joseph R. Giannini Esq., Los Angeles, CA.
For JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief Judge, United States, District Court for the District of New Jersey, Defendant - Appellee: David V. Bober, Esq., Office of United States Attorney, Trenton, NJ; Caroline A. Sadlowski, Esq., Kristin L. Vassallo, Esq., Office of United States Attorney, Newark, NJ.
Before: SMITH, JORDAN, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges.
JORDAN, Circuit Judge.
By its own description, the National Association for the Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice (" NAAMJP" ) advocates " throughout the United States for the purpose of improving the legal profession, by petitioning for admission on motion in the dwindling minority of jurisdictions that have not yet adopted ... reciprocal admission for all lawyers." (JA164.) In other words, the NAAMJP endeavors to reduce the barriers to entry to legal practice in the various state and federal courts across the country. Its view, which should tug at the heartstrings of any attorney, is that " one bar exam is more than enough." (Opening Br. at 19.) With that end in mind, the NAAMJP has crisscrossed the United States, challenging local bar admission rules. See, e.g., NAAMJP v. Lynch, No. 15-1982, 826 F.3d 191, 2016 WL 3361558 (4th Cir. June 17, 2016); NAAMJP v. Berch, 773 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 2374, 192 L.Ed.2d 146 (2015); see also Blye v. California Supreme Court, CV 11-5046, 2014 WL 229830, at *2 n.3 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 21, 2014) (collecting similar challenges involving plaintiffs' counsel dating back to 1987).1 It does not appear that the NAAMJP or its counsel has ever succeeded in any of its efforts. Its challenges have twice reached this Court and twice been rejected. See NAAMJP v. Castille, 799 F.3d 216 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 558, 193 L.Ed.2d 430 (2015); NAAMJP v. Gonzales, 211 Fed.Appx. 91 (3d Cir. 2006).2 This time is the same.
In the present case, the NAAMJP and two of its members challenge the conditions placed on admission to the bar of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (the " District Court" ). They allege that the District Court's local rules, which generally incorporate New Jersey state admission rules by limiting federal admission to those licensed to practice by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, violate federal statutory and constitutional standards. The defendants -- judges of the District Court and former Attorney General Eric Holder -- moved to dismiss the NAAMJP's complaint.3 In a thorough and thoughtful opinion, the District Court granted the motion to dismiss. We agree with the reasoning of the District Court in all respects, and will affirm.
The District Court's Local Civil Rule 101.1 governs admission to the bar of that Court. The rule provides that " [a]ny attorney licensed to practice by the Supreme Court of New Jersey may be admitted" to the bar of the District Court. L.Civ.R. 101.1(b). It further provides that a New Jersey attorney who is deemed ineligible to practice in state court under certain circumstances will also not be permitted to practice before the District Court during the period of that ineligibility, and that an attorney who resigns from the New Jersey State bar will be considered to have resigned from the bar of the District Court. Id. In lieu of general admission to the bar of the District Court, attorneys not licensed in New Jersey who are members in good standing of another state or federal bar may apply for pro hac vice admission for each case in which they participate in the District Court and pay a $150 fee upon each admission. L.Civ.R. 101.1(c).
The local rules also permit narrow categories of exceptions from the requirement of membership in the New Jersey State bar. For example, the rules allow those admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office to be admitted to the District Court bar so long as they have been members of the bar of any state or federal court for five years and have been engaged in the practice of patent law in New Jersey, with an office located in the state, for at least two years. L.Civ.R. 101.1(e). In addition, attorneys representing the United States need not be admitted to practice in New Jersey in order to appear in the District Court. See L.Civ.R. 101.1(f).4
On June 9, 2014, the NAAMJP and two of its members, Robert Vereb and Benjamin Josef Doscher,5 sued the district and magistrate judges of the District Court, as well as former Attorney General Eric Holder, claiming that the local rules wrongly prevent certain of NAAMJP's members from joining the bar of the Court. Both Vereb and Doscher are admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New York and " will apply for admission to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey bar if its admission rule is changed." (JA165-166.) The complaint includes four causes of action, based on alleged violations of the following: (1) the Rules Enabling Act, 28 U.S.C. § § 2071-2072; (2) the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2; (3) the First Amendment; and (4) principles of equal protection.6 As relief, the plaintiffs seek an order declaring the local rules unconstitutional and enjoining their enforcement, and an order " declaring that District Court Local Rules shall provide the opportunity for general bar admission privileges to all sister-state attorneys admitted to the highest court of any state." (JA199.)
The defendants moved to dismiss on two grounds. First, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), they challenged the standing of the individual plaintiffs and the NAAMJP. They argued that the plaintiffs had failed to allege that they suffered any injury by operation of the District Court's bar admission rules because " [t]hey have not alleged ... that they have taken steps to gain admission to the District of New Jersey," nor have they alleged " that they have clients that they wish to represent in the District of New Jersey" or " even that they would attempt to develop a practice in the District of New Jersey if admitted." (Answering Br. at 10.) Second, the defendants argued that, even if the plaintiffs could establish standing to challenge the local rules, the four causes of action are without merit and should be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The District Court granted the motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), concluding that the plaintiffs had standing to initiate their lawsuit against the judicial defendants -- though not against former Attorney General Holder -- but that each of their four substantive claims failed on the merits. The plaintiffs then filed this timely appeal.
A. Standard of Review
We exercise plenary review over the District Court's standing determination and its dismissal of the complaint on the merits. See United States ex rel. Atkinson v. Pa. Shipbuilding Co., 473 F.3d 506, 514 (3d Cir. 2007) (review of jurisdictional determination under Rule 12(b)(1) is plenary); Howard Hess Dental Labs. Inc. v. Dentsply Int'l, Inc., 602 F.3d 237, 246 (3d Cir. 2010) (review of Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is plenary). " A motion to dismiss for want of standing is ... properly brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), because standing is a jurisdictional matter." 8 Ballentine v. United States, 486 F.3d 806, 810, 48 V.I. 1059 (3d Cir...
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