When Do California Courts Deny Applications For Pro Hac Vice Admission?
This post is part of our continuing series on pro hac vice admission in California*
PRO HAC VICE ADMISSION IS NOT GUARANTEED
Pro hac vice admission grants a licensed out-of-state attorney permission to appear as counsel in a California court in association with a given legal matter. Generally speaking, pro hac vice admission exists as a form of professional courtesy, and is a privilege, not a right. Courts can (and do) refuse applications for pro hac vice admission, and also have the power to terminate or revoke an attorney’s pro hac vice status, even before conclusion of the relevant matter.
WHEN DO COURTS DENY APPLICATIONS FOR PRO HAC VICE ADMISSION?
Every application for pro hac vice admission is evaluated individually, on a facts and circumstances basis. This means that each application will be judged and granted (or denied) on its own merits (and those of the attorney seeking permission to appear in California court). However, factors that may influence the reviewing court to deny an out-of-state lawyer’s application may include:
1. The number of times the attorney has applied for pro hac vice admission in the past – and whether or not those applications were granted or denied (and for what reasons). While there is no bright line rule, pro hac vice appearances are supposed to be the exception, not the rule, and repeated appearances may reduce the likelihood of pro hac vice admission being granted in the future.
2. The attorney’s past actions in California courts. More specifically, the court may consider what effect the lawyer’s past actions (either while appearing pro hac vice or otherwise) have had on the administration of justice in California courts. Attorneys who have been censured, fined, or faced other disciplinary action in California may have a harder time obtaining permission to appear pro hac vice.
3. The attorney’s willingness to obey California rules of court and ethical standards. Attorneys who exhibit a pattern of contempt for, or unwillingness to abide by, court rules and ethical standards are likely to find their applications for pro hac vice admission refused or denied.
THE COURT MUST EXPLAIN ITS REASONS FOR DENYING AN APPLICATION FOR PRO HAC VICE ADMISSION
When a California court denies out-of-state counsel’s pro hac vice application, the judge must explain the reasons for the denial in reasonable detail. The court cannot merely deny the application on the basis of “rules limiting pro hac vice appearances” or other purely procedural reasons (provided that the court can deny an application that fails to meet the basic requirements, or which does not demonstrate that the applicant is eligible for pro hac vice admission).
Courts are required to state the reasons for denial both for the benefit of the applicant counsel and so that a reviewing court has a basis upon which to evaluate the decision.
It’s important to note that, due to the nature of pro hac vice admission, the standards for pro hac vice admission may differ from those applied to attorneys who seek permanent admission to the California bar.
PRO HAC VICE STATUS CAN BE REVOKED BY THE COURT
California courts have the inherent power and authority to revoke the pro hac vice status of an out-of-state lawyer who engages in conduct that (a) breaches the California rules of court or (b) would disqualify a California attorney from the practice of law. Revocation of pro hac vice status may operate as a disqualification of the relevant out-of-state attorney, and may impact that attorney’s ability to obtain pro hac vice admission in the future.
*RossLaw serves as the California attorney of record for pro hac vice admissions in appropriate cases and circumstances. Please feel free to contact our office for more details.
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