Last week the Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) Rules Committee requested public comment on proposed Rule 3:15, which would institute a pro hac vice admission fee in Massachusetts. As Issue Spot reported last November, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission (AJC) petitioned the SJC to adopt this rule in hopes of developing another source of funding for legal aid. When the BBA Council met in November, there was unanimous support for the AJC’s proposal.
The new pro hac vice fee of $300 per case would be imposed on out-of-state lawyers seeking to appear in Massachusetts Courts except if the attorney is providing pro bono legal assistance to an indigent client. Under Rule 3:15, the proceeds from the pro hac vice fees would be given to the IOLTA Committee and distributed by it, in the same proportions as other IOLTA revenue – to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Massachusetts Bar Foundation and Boston Bar Foundation. A small portion of the fees will go to the Board of Bar Overseers for administration purposes. Forty states and the District of Columbia already have such a rule.
One ancillary benefit. . . Court clerks are also looking forward to Rule 3:15 because it will help bring consistency to how these pro hac vice cases are handled. Right now there is no way of monitoring the number of attorneys who appear pro hac vice in Massachusetts. Rule 3:15 will formalize the pro hac vice admission process and help court personnel track how many out-of-state attorneys appear in Massachusetts courts.
The next step in the process to implement the admission fee is to collect public comment. Proposed Rule 3:15 is out for public comment until March 9th. After the deadline has passed, the SJC Rules Committee will review the comments and make a recommendation to the Justices of the SJC. Once a recommendation has been made, the Justices will consider the Rule in an administrative session. Likely, the proposed Rule would be considered by the Justices in late spring.
Instituting a pro hac vice admission fee will never replace the funds provided by Massachusetts IOLTA accounts before interest rates plummeted and transactions slowed. That being said, proposed Rule 3:15 would help plug the gap and help increase funding for legal services in Massachusetts is worthwhile.
– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association