Hawkins v. Moss

Decision Date18 September 1974
Docket NumberNo. 73-1601,73-1601
Citation503 F.2d 1171
PartiesAlva Owen HAWKINS, Appellant, v. Honorable Joseph R. MOSS, Chief Justice, et al., Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Neil Bradley, Atlanta, Ga. (Laughlin McDonald, Morris Brown, Emily Carssow, Atlanta, Ga., P. King Holmes and H. Christopher Coates, Columbia, S.C., on brief), for appellant.

Ellison D. Smith, IV, Asst. Atty. Gen., (Daniel R. McLeod, Atty. Gen., and Donald V. Myers, Asst. Atty. Gen., on brief), for appellees.

Before HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge, and RUSSELL and WIDENER, Circuit judges.

DONALD RUSSELL, Circuit Judge:

The plaintiff, a lawyer admitted to practice in the Courts of New Jersey, has, according to his complaint, established a residence in South Carolina (though retaining a desk in a law office in New Jersey) and he seeks to gain admission to the Bar of South Carolina without submitting to the normal requirement of taking an examination in order to demonstrate his legal competency or proficiency. He bases his claim for exemption from such examination on Rule 10 of the Rules for the Examination and Admission of Persons to Practice Law in South Carolina, as promulgated by the Supreme Court of South Carolina and outstanding at the time he filed his application. 1 This Rule grants an exemption from the normal examination requirement for attorneys licensed to practice in another State. 2 One difficulty in plaintiff's endeavor to avail himself of this exemption is, however, that Rule 10 is a reciprocity provision, the application of which in favor of any applicant is expressly conditioned upon the grant of 'reciprocity on substantially equal terms to attorneys licensed in this State' by the State in which the applicant is licensed. New Jersey, the only State in which plaintiff has gained admission to the Bar, does not grant reciprocal rights to attorneys licensed by the Supreme Court of South Carolina. It is, however, plaintiff's contention that such a reciprocity limitation or condition incorporated in the Rule is unconstitutional and he seeks a declaratory judgment to that effect, predicating federal jurisdiction on Sections 1343(3) and (4), 2201, 2281 and 2284, 28 U.S.C. In seeking such a declaratory judgment, he petitioned the District Court to request the convening of a 3-judge court under Sections 2281 et seq., 28 U.S.C. The District Court held that plaintiff's complaint posed no substantial federal issue, refused the request for the convening of a 3-judge court 3 and dismissed the action. 4 The plaintiff has appealed. We affirm.

At the outset it must be recognized that plaintiff's admission to the Bar of New Jersey does not per se confer on him any absolute right to be admitted to the practice of law in South Carolina. The power of the courts of each state to establish their own rules of qualification for the practice of law within their jurisdiction, subject only to the requirements of the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, is beyond controversy; in fact, it is a power in the exercise of which the state has 'a substantial interest.' 5 It necessarily follows that licenses to practice law, granted by the courts of one state, have no extraterritorial effect or value and can vest no right in the holder to practice law in another state. 6 To acquire a right to practice in another state one must satisfy the requirements for qualification established by that state. It thus matters not what examinations the applicant has undergone in the state where he is presently licensed; he is still compelled to satisfy reasonable standards for competency and character as fixed by the new state in which he seeks the right to practice unless, under some provision of that state's court rules or statutes, those requirements are excused or dispensed with. To be specific, the fact that the plaintiff has undergone successfully a written examination on his professional competency in New Jersey will not excuse him from compliance with a requirement that he establish his competency by a written examination conducted under the directions of the Courts of South Carolina, before he may qualify for admission to the Bar of South Carolina. So much the plaintiff concedes.

As already indicated, the single point of difference between the parties, as presented by this appeal, arises in connection with the application of Rule

10. It is the gravamen of the plaintiff's complaint that Rule 10 discriminates illegally or 'invidiously' against persons licensed by states not granting reciprocal rights to attorneys admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of South Carolina and is, accordingly, violative of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 7 Arguing from that premise, the plaintiff contends that he is entitled to the exemption from examination given by the Rule, even though New Jersey, the only state in which he is admitted to practice, denies such exemption to attorneys licensed by South Carolina who may seek authority to practice law in New Jersey. In substance, the plaintiff challenges the constitutional validity of conditioning the exemption from written examination granted by Rule 10 on reciprocity and asks a judicial determination that reciprocal professional licensing rules and statutes as adopted by the vast majority of the states infringe the constitutional rights of individuals licensed by states not according reciprocity.

State reciprocity statutes or regulations such as Rule 10 are not unusual. In fact, they have been adopted by the vast majority of the states and apply particularly in the field of professional licensing. 8 They represent a state's undertaking to secure for its citizens an advantage by offering that advantage to citizens of any other state on condition that the other state make a similar grant. 9 To secure for her citizens the reciprocal rights and advantages obtained under such statutes or rules is manifestly a legitimate interest and goal on the part of a state just as it is a legitimate interest of one nation to secure reciprocal property rights for its citizens in other nations. 10 It is true, as the plaintiff argues, these statutes and rules treat differently those individuals admitted to practice their profession in states extending reciprocal rights and those from states not so granting those rights. But the mere fact that they 'affect some groups of citizens differently than others' or that they 'result in 'incidental individual inequality" will not render such statutes or rules invalid. Martin v. Walton (1961) 368 U.S. 25, 26, 82 S.Ct. 1, 7 L.Ed.2d 5, reh. den. 368 U.S. 945, 82 S.Ct. 376, 7 L.Ed.2d 341. It is a familiar rule of constitutional law that a statute or rule promulgated under state aughority will be found to violate equal protection only when it results in discrimination against a certain class and the classification is not rationally related to any legitimate state policy or interest. McGowan v. Maryland (1961) 366 U.S. 420, 425-426, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393; San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez (1973), 411 U.S. 1, 40, 93 S.Ct. 1278, 36 L.Ed.2d 16, reh. den. 411 U.S. 959, 93 S.Ct. 1919, 36 L.Ed.2d 418; Sams v. Ohio Valley General Hospital Association (4th Cir. 1969) 413 F.2d 826; Brown v. Supreme Court of Virginia, supra (359 F.Supp. at 554-555). 11 Reciprocal statutes or regulations, it has been uniformly held, are designed to meet a legitimate state goal and are related to a legitimate state interest. For this reason, they have been found invulnerable to constitutional attack on equal protection grounds. Illustrative of this conclusion are Goldsmith v. Clabaugh (1925), 55 App.D.C. 346, 6 F.2d 94, cert. den. 269 U.S. 554, 46 S.Ct. 18, 73 L.Ed. 408 (accountants); Fales v. Commission on Licensure to Prac. Heal. Art, supra (275 A.2d at 240) (doctors); O'Dell v. Ohio State Medical Board (1970) 22 Ohio Misc. 138, 259 N.E.2d 167 (chiropractors); Mercer v. Hemmings (1967) Fla., 194 So.2d 579 (accountants); Spindel v. Jamison, supra (103 S.E.2d 205) (professional engineers); People v. Griswold (1914) 213 N.Y. 92, 106 N.E. 929 (dentists); Bloom v. Mo. Board of Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (1972) Mo.App., 474 S.W.2d 861 (architects); State v. Perkins (1934) 138 Kan. 899, 28 P.2d 765 (lawyers). 12 And, In Re Griffiths (1973) 413 U.S. 717, 733, 93 S.Ct. 2851, 2861, 37 L.Ed.2d 910, Chief Justice Burger, though dissenting on other grounds, used language that would seem conclusive on the validity of Rule 10's reciprocal provision as applied to attorneys. He observed that '* * * the States may well move to adopt, by statute or rule of court, a reciprocal proviso, familiar in other contexts; under such a reciprocal treatment of applicants a State would admit to the practice of law the nationals of such other countries as admit American citizens to practice. I find nothing in the core holding of Zschernig v. Miller, 389 U.S. 429 (88 S.Ct. 664, 19 L.Ed.2d 683) (1968), to foreclose state adoption of such reciprocal provisions. See Clark v. Allen, 331 U.S. 503 (67 S.Ct. 1431, 91 L.Ed. 1633) (1947).' In the light of this comment, backed up as it is by theunbroken line of authority on the point, it cannot be successfully argued that reciprocal professional licensing statutes or rules, enacted or promulgated under proper state authority, offend the equal protection clause. 13

In his argument in this Court, the plaintiff has gone beyond his 'equal protection' contention and asserts that the Rule denies him rights guaranteed him under the 'privileges and immunities' section of Article IV of the Constitution and of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The 'privileges and immunities' provision of the Fourteenth Amendment provides no constitutional base for an attack on the Rule. The right of federal citizenship as reflected in the 'right to travel' and as protected by this provision is not to...

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