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Schumacher v. Nix

argued: April 6, 1992.

DANA SCHUMACHER, LEROY HODGE, APPELLANTS
v.
ROBERT N.C. NIX, JR., CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; ROLF LARSEN, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; JOHN P. FLAHERTY, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; JAMES T. MCDERMOTT, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; STEPHEN A. ZAPPALA, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; NICHOLAS P. PAPADAKOS, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; RALPH J. CAPPY, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; PATRICK TASSOS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil Action No. 90-1431)

Before: Greenberg and Scirica, Circuit Judges, and Debevoise, District Judge*fn*

Author: Scirica

Opinion OF THE COURT

SCIRICA, Circuit Judge.

This case presents an equal protection challenge to Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rule 203(a)(2)(ii), which governs the eligibility of graduates of unaccredited law schools to sit for the Pennsylvania bar examination. The district court entered summary judgment for defendants on the ground that the Rule is rationally related to Pennsylvania's interest in securing mutual treatment for its attorneys seeking admission to the bars of other states. We will affirm.

I

Plaintiffs Dana Schumacher and Leroy Hodge are graduates of the People's College of Law in California, which is not accredited by the American Bar Association. They have taken and passed the California first-year law students' examination, professional responsibility examination, and general bar examination. Plaintiffs are members in good standing of the California bar, and have practiced law in that state for more than five years.

Plaintiffs moved to Pennsylvania in 1987. Since then they have been admitted to the bars of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. Plaintiffs have been unable to gain admission to the Pennsylvania bar, however, because they are ineligible to sit for the Pennsylvania bar examination.*fn1

As a general matter, only graduates of law schools accredited by the ABA are eligible to sit for the Pennsylvania bar examination. Pa. B.A.R. 203(a)(2)(i). There is an exception, however, for graduates of unaccredited law schools who are members in good standing of the bar of a "reciprocal state" and have practiced law there for five years. Id. 203(a)(2)(ii).*fn2 "Reciprocal state" is defined as "[a] state having a reciprocal agreement or arrangement with [Pennsylvania] concerning admission to the bar." Id. 102(a). In practice the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners has accorded reciprocal status to those states which permit experienced Pennsylvania attorneys who are graduates of accredited law schools to waive into their bar without taking an examination.*fn3

California is not considered a reciprocal state by the Board of law Examiners, because it will not allow Pennsylvania attorneys, whether graduates of accredited law schools or not, to become members of its bar without tailing an examination. Accordingly, although plaintiffs are members in good standing of the California bar and have practiced law there for five years, they are ineligible to sit for the Pennsylvania bar examination. To become eligible, plaintiffs would have to either obtain a degree from an accredited law school or become members in good standing of the bar of a reciprocal state and practice law there for live years. See Id. 203(a)(2)(ii).

On August 29, 1990, plaintiffs filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action in federal district court seeking a declaration that Rule 203(a)(2)(ii) is unconstitutional and an injunction preventing its enforcement. Defendants are the Chief Justice and Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who promulgated Rule 203(a)(2)(ii), see 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 1701 & 1722(a)(1), and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners, who is responsible for implementing the Rule, see Pa. B.A.R. 104(c).

In their complaint, plaintiffs allege that Rule 203(a)(2)(ii) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 2.*fn4 They assert that the Rule substantially interferes with their fundamental right to interstate travel by discouraging them from moving to Pennsylvania, and is invalid under the strict scrutiny standard of equal protection analysis.*fn5 In the alternative, they contend that the Rule cannot pass the minimum rational basis test, because there is no logical connection between whether a state is considered reciprocal by the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners and whether it accords mutual treatment to Pennsylvania attorneys who are graduates of unaccredited law schools.

After both parties sought summary judgment, a magistrate Judge recommended that summary judgment be granted for defendants. Rejecting plaintiffs' argument that strict scrutiny applied, he held that Rule 203(a)(2)(ii) passed muster under rational basis review. The district court issued a memorandum and order adopting the magistrate Judge's recommendation. Schumacher v. Nix, 90-1431 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 27, 1991). This appeal followed.

II

We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.*fn6 At issue is whether Rule 203(a)(2)(ii) violates plaintiffs right to equal protection of the laws. Our review of the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants is plenary. Sacred Heart Medical Ctr. v. Sullivan, 958 F.2d 537, 543 (3d Cir. 1992). We apply the same principles governing the district court's determination whether to grant summary judgment, and must be convinced that defendants have successfully demonstrated "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [they ...


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