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Maintaining bar membership is one of those cumbersome requirements of the law profession. There’s the bar exam, annual dues, and oftentimes mandatory continuing legal education classes. Until now, federal administrative law judges have been able to escape these requirements. Last week, new federal rules went into effect requiring that the 1,000-some lawyers who arbitrate administrative appeals on issues from immigration to labor to security clearances must be active bar members. The Association of Administrative Law Judges is not happy about that, calling the move a “radical departure from previous regulations.” The group filed suit April 18 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Office of Personnel Management to overturn the new requirements. The suit alleges that the change is overly cumbersome and beyond the scope of the office’s authority. “If judges are unable to comply, they may be forced out of their jobs,” wrote Robert Stropp Jr., a lawyer for the group from Mooney, Green, Baker & Saindon, in court filings. Although many of the judges have inactive status in their respective bars (administrative law judges are located across the country), the rule change would also force them to pay the cost of dues (and possibly back dues, which vary by state) in order to achieve active status. Some may even have to retake the bar exam. An OPM spokesman declined to comment.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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