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APPEAL EDWARD M. MURPHY (10/05/78)

decided: October 5, 1978.

APPEAL OF EDWARD M. MURPHY, II, FROM THE DECISION OF THE STATE BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS. APPLICATION OF THOMAS SYLVESTER ACKER FOR ADMISSION TO THE BAR OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


No. 8 Miscellaneous Docket, No. 1978. No. 44 Miscellaneous Docket, No. 1978

COUNSEL

Edward M. Murphy, II, Dunmore, David H. Acker, New Castle, for appellant.

Susan L. Anderson, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Larsen, J., joins. Nix, J., did not participate in the decision of the appeal at No. 44, Application of Thomas Sylvester Acker.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 482 Pa. Page 44]

OPINION OF THE COURT

For many years this Court, exercising its inherent right to determine the conditions of admission to the bar of this state,*fn1 has insisted on two complementary requirements: one, that an applicant for admission be a graduate both of an accredited college and of an accredited law school; and two, that the applicant take and pass the bar examination administered by the Pennsylvania State Board of Law Examiners

[ 482 Pa. Page 45]

(an arm of this Court). These two requirements have been insisted upon because of the belief that neither alone was sufficient. The learning process of attending a law school was felt to need the capstone of an examination administered under the supervision of the admitting authority,*fn2 and the examination in turn was felt to need the underpinning of a competent legal education.

For many years the rule of our Court relating to the legal education requirement said only that the institution should be "approved"; in practice, the Court looked to and relied upon the American Bar Association's accreditation list as its guide in determining whether that requirement had been met. In 1971 this practice was made explicit, the rule stating that to qualify for the bar examination an applicant "shall have completed the study of law in a law school accredited by the American Bar Association." 441 Pa. xxx.*fn3

In 1977 the Pennsylvania bar admission rules were revised generally, and the former rule specifying accreditation was incorporated into Rule 203 of the new Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rules, 471 Pa. lxxix. To the adoption of these

[ 482 Pa. Page 46]

    new rules a dissenting opinion was filed by our brother MANDERINO. Ibid. at xcv.

We now have before us two appeals*fn4 from actions by the Board of Law Examiners based on the accreditation requirement. One appeal, by Edward M. Murphy, II, is from the refusal of the Board to allow him to sit for the bar examination.*fn5 The other, by Thomas Sylvester Acker, is from the refusal of the Board to certify the applicant's eligibility to be admitted on motion under the rule of comity which recognizes five or more years of practice in a reciprocating sister state, and a certificate of good standing by the supreme court of that state, as sufficient to warrant admission to the bar of this Court without examination. The point in common in the two cases is that in Pennsylvania both admission to the bar examination and admission to the bar "on motion" under the comity rule are premised upon the applicant possessing a law degree from an approved law school. Murphy graduated from Western State University College of Law of Orange County, Fullerton, California;*fn6 Acker graduated in 1955 from Youngstown State University

[ 482 Pa. Page 47]

School of Law, Youngstown, Ohio.*fn7 Neither institution is accredited under our rules because neither has received ABA accreditation and it was for this reason that the Board took the action it did in each case. We affirm the decisions of the Board.

The dissenters apparently do not quarrel with the philosophy that a good legal education, not merely passing a state administered bar examination, is a reasonable and beneficial condition for admission to the bar. The disagreement seems to be with the selection of the American Bar Association as the accrediting agency; more precisely, with what is seen to be an unconstitutional delegation of judicial authority to a non-governmental body such as the ABA.*fn8 Mr. Justice MANDERINO finds basic flaw in the absence of any standards to guide the ABA in its delegated functions.*fn9 He would therefore permit graduates of an unapproved school to seek admission in this state, "either individually or by their schools." In our view, this argument is misplaced.

In the first place, this Court has not "delegated" any judicial function to the ABA. The admission of a person to practice law in this ...


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