United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION & ORDER
STANLEY R. CHESLER, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal of Magistrate Judge Waldor's September 5, 2014 Order ("the September 5 Order") denying Plaintiff's application to admit her attorney, John P. Fuller, pro hac vice. Defendant has submitted opposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will reverse the September 5 Order and admit Mr. Fuller pro hac vice.
Plaintiff Tanya Whiteside ("Plaintiff") is an individual with physical disabilities who brought this action against Defendant Empire Plaza ("Defendant"), the owner of a shopping center in New Jersey. Plaintiff claims that Defendant's property lacks certain accommodations that are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD").
Plaintiff is represented by Alan R. Ackerman, an attorney whose law practice is based in Parsippany, New Jersey, and by John P. Fuller, an attorney primarily based in North Miami, Florida. Mr. Ackerman is a member of the New Jersey Bar; Mr. Fuller is not, but he is a member of the bar of Florida and of numerous federal jurisdictions.
On July 30, 2014, Plaintiff moved to admit Mr. Fuller pro hac vice, so that he could appear on Plaintiff's behalf in the District of New Jersey. The application provided that Mr. Fuller has extensive experiencing litigating ADA and NJLAD claims, and that he has undertaken a significant amount of work on behalf of Plaintiff in this case. Defendant opposed the application, arguing that Mr. Fuller's participation was unnecessary because Mr. Ackerman is well versed in the law and factual issues, and because additional legal counsel would only serve to increase attorneys' fees.
In the September 5 Order, United States Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor denied the application. Judge Waldor acknowledged Mr. Fuller's credentials and expertise, as well as the absence of any disciplinary violations on his record. Nevertheless, in a thoughtful and diligent opinion, Judge Waldor determined that because Mr. Fuller has appeared pro hac vice in this District many times, any additional admissions would constitute an end-run around full membership to the New Jersey Bar. Judge Waldor cited a model rule drafted by the American Bar Association ("ABA"), which although is not binding, clearly cautions against "such frequent appearances as to constitute regular practice in [the] state."
Plaintiff appealed the decision. Plaintiff's counsel note that Mr. Fuller is not a witness in the case, and he is not accused of any unprofessional conduct. Defendant opposed the appeal primarily for the reasons laid out in the September 5 Order.
A. Pro Hac Vice Admission
Generally, only attorneys licensed by the New Jersey Supreme Court may practice in the Federal District of New Jersey. See Local Civil Rule 101.1(b), (e). Yet an attorney who is not licensed in a jurisdiction may apply to be admitted pro hac vice, which allows the lawyer to litigate there temporarily, "for the purpose of conducting a particular case." Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009).
The District of New Jersey allows for pro hac vice admission. Specifically, Local Civil Rule 101.1(c)(1) provides that an attorney who is not licensed in New Jersey may practice in this district as follows:
Any member in good standing of the bar of any court of the United States or of the highest court of any state, who is not under suspension or disbarment by any court and is ineligible for admission to the bar of this Court... may in the discretion of the Court, on motion, be permitted to appear and participate in a particular case.
The rule further requires the attorney seeking pro hac vice admission to associate with local counsel, pay a fee to the District Court and to the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, and submit ...