Martin Swanson, pro se.
at Law, Admission to practice, Bar application.
Martin Swanson has filed, in the county court, a petition to
be admitted to the practice of law in Massachusetts together
with some, but not all, of the supporting materials required
by S.J.C. Rule 3:01, § 1.1, as appearing in 453 Mass.
1302 (2009). Notably absent from his materials are current
certificates of admission and good standing from the highest
courts of the other States in which he has been admitted. See
Rule 3:01, § 1.1.7. His application is therefore
incomplete. He was informed that, if he wished to proceed
without the certificates of admission and good standing, he
could request a waiver of the § 1.1.7 requirement from
this court's rules committee, which he did. The committee
denied that request in 2014, and it also subsequently denied
his multiple requests for reconsideration.
thereafter appealed the rulings of the rules committee to a
single justice of this court. The single justice concluded
that Swanson was not entitled to relief. He also denied
Swanson's motion for reconsideration. Swanson now appeals
to the full court. Because we conclude that the interests of
equity and justice do not require the granting of a waiver of
S.J.C. Rule 3:01, § 1.1.7, in these circumstances, we
affirm the single justice's order.
applying for admission to the bar in Massachusetts, Swanson
was admitted to the practice of law in Michigan and Florida.
He was disbarred in Michigan, however, in 2004, and was
subsequently disbarred in Florida under Florida's
reciprocal discipline rules. At no time has he sought
reinstatement in either of those jurisdictions, although he
alleges that the basis for his disbarment in Michigan has
since been resolved, and, therefore, that he is eligible for
admission in Massachusetts without first being readmitted in
Michigan and Florida.
court has the authority to establish the rules and standards
by which individuals become licensed to practice law in
Massachusetts. One such rule, Rule 3:01, § 1.1.7,
requires that applicants for admission to our bar must submit
certificates from the highest courts of any other States in
which they have been admitted to practice showing that they
are in good standing in those jurisdictions. The rule assists
the Board of Bar Examiners (board) in assessing, as it must,
"whether the candidate possesses the character and
fitness to practice law" in Massachusetts. Rule V.1.1 of
the Rules of the Board of Bar Examiners (2018). See S.J.C.
Rule 3:01, § 1.4, as appearing in 478 Mass. 1301 (2018)
The rule has a clear, direct, rational connection to
establishing the applicant's fitness to practice law.
Matter of Tocci, 413 Mass. 542, 547-548 (1992)
("Such standards will be upheld under the due process
and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to
the United States Constitution so long as they have a
rational connection with an applicant's fitness or
capacity to practice law").
court and its rules committee also have the inherent power to
waive any one or more of the rules in particular situations
when justice and equity require. See Mitchell
v. Board of Bar Examiners, 452 Mass. 582,
586 (2008); Matter of Tocci, supra at 546;
Novak v. Board of Bar Examiners,
397 Mass. 270, 274 (1986). The rules committee determined on
the basis of the various materials submitted by Swanson that
this is not a suitable case for a waiver. We agree.
carefully reviewed all the material that Swanson submitted to
the rules committee, to the single justice, and to the full
court. Based on what he has submitted, we are not persuaded
that the event which led to his disbarment in Michigan has
since been resolved, as he claims. There is nothing in the
record from the Michigan authorities so indicating. Nor is
there anything from Michigan or Florida indicating that he
would be eligible to apply for reinstatement there or that he
has applied for such reinstatement. In these circumstances,
we cannot say that the purpose of our rule would be served by
dispensing with certificates of admission and good standing
from Michigan and Florida.
also claims that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing
before the rules committee and a written report from the
committee setting forth its findings and reasons for not
granting a waiver. For this proposition he relies primarily
on cases that involve the administrative procedure act, G. L.
c. 30A, and proceedings before administrative agencies. The
act does not apply to the Judicial Branch, however. See G. L.
c. 30A, § 1 (judicial department expressly excluded from
definition of "agency"). See also Wei Jia
v. Board of Bar Examiners, 427 Mass. 777,
788 (1998), citing Mead, petitioner, 372 Mass. 253,
255, cert, denied, 434 U.S. 858 (1977). The consideration of
a request for a rule waiver by the rules committee is an ad
hoc, equitable process that typically consists of reviewing
the written request and any supporting material; it does not
require a trial or specific findings.
clear, neither the rules committee, the single justice, nor
this court has denied Swanson's application for admission
to the bar. Because he has not filed certificates of
admission and good standing in Michigan and Florida, his
petition is incomplete. See S.J.C. Rule 3:01, § 1.1. It
therefore has not been referred to the board for a report
"as to the character, acquirements and qualifications of
the petitioner." S.J.C. Rule 3:01, § 1.4. The
requirement that certificates of admission and good standing
be provided as part of a complete application is consistent
with our approach in the context of reciprocal discipline:
"[p]ermitting an attorney suspended or disbarred in one
State to practice law in the Commonwealth rightly tends to
undermine public confidence in the effectiveness of attorney
disciplinary procedures and threatens harm to the
administration of justice and to innocent clients."
Matter of Lebbos, 423 Mass. 753, 755 (1996), cert,
denied, 520 U.S. 1275 (1997). When Swanson files certificates
of admission and good standing in Florida and Michigan, and
his application is otherwise complete, it will be referred to
the board for its consideration.
order of the single justice declining to grant relief from
the rules committee's decision not to grant a rule waiver
in these circumstances, on the record that was before it, is