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Massachusetts lawyer invades Rhode Island unsuccessfully.

Illustrating the issues in extra-jurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules, the Rhode Island Supreme Court granted pro hac vice status to a Massachusetts lawyer but refused to pre-date the status to legitimate services already performed. In re Ferrey, 774 A.2d 62 (R.I. 2001).

The Bay State lawyer, Steven E. Ferrey had sought and obtained approval of the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board to appear before it. Later he sought pro hac vice permission from the Rhode Island Supreme Court not only to continue to provide legal services before that agency but to have the admission apply nunc pro tunc from the date of his first appearance before the board. The court granted the pro hac vice permission, but it refused to backdate the authority.

The court conceded that its own pro hac vice rule pertains only to appearances in "court," but it declared that it had an "unquestioned inherent right" to determine who may practice law in Rhode Island and that the practice of law includes work outside the courts. Therefore, the board did not have power or authority to grant pro hac vice status. While the question of whether Ferrey's past appearances before the board were the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Rhode Island statutes was not before the court, it nevertheless pointed out that he might not be able to be paid for those services and might be subject to prosecution.

One justice of the court dissented. Because of the limited scope of the court's own pro hac vice rule to appearances in "court" and the lack of any other rule relating to administrative proceedings, he favored granting the pro hac vice permission nunc pro tunc. He also relied, contrary to the majority's view, on the application of a section of Rhode Island statutes exempting "visiting attorneys at law, authorized to practice law before he courts of record in another state, while temporarily in this state on legal business" from the unauthorized practice of law statutes.

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Publication:Defense Counsel Journal
Geographic Code:1U1RI
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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