A state appeals court has denied nunc pro tunc waiver requests by a Massachusetts assistant attorney general and a private lawyer that would have allowed them to appear in a civil action brought against Massachusetts-based police departments.
An Appellate Division, Third Department, panel has rejected applications by assistant attorney general Abigail Fee and David Lawless, the private lawyer, for a nunc pro tunc waiver of Judiciary Law §470. The law provides that lawyers admitted in New York state, residing in an adjoining state, may practice in New York provided they keep a New York office.
Fee and Lawless, apparently both Massachusetts residents, are admitted in New York but don’t maintain offices here. They applied for nunc pro tunc waivers of Judiciary Law §470′s law office requirement, seeking to appear on behalf of clients in Stegemann v. Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office, 521653.
The suit was filed by Joshua Stegemann, a convicted felon who claims numerous police departments from both New York state and Massachusetts wrongfully searched his home and seized property during a drug raid. Fee represents eight defendants, including Massachusetts state police; Lawless represents six defendants, including the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, police department.
Justices Karen Peters, Elizabeth Garry, Robert Rose, Sharon Aarons and Phillip Rumsey ruled Fee and Lawless’ waiver requests must be denied, finding the statute “provides, without exception, that a prerequisite for a nonresident attorney to practice law … is that he or she maintain a physical law office here.”
“We also find that creating an avenue for nonresident attorneys to obtain a waiver of the law office requirement would amount to the type of rulemaking reserved for the Court of Appeals,” the court said.
In denying the waivers, the panel requested that there be an application for admission pro hac vice “by appropriate counsel or a notice of appearance upon the appeals by new counsel.”
Lawless declined to comment. Fee did not return a call. Stegemann represented himself and could not be reached.