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WALI MUHAMMED v. ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT COMM. ON P

August 28, 1986

Wali Muhammed
v.
Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct et al



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EISELE

Garnett Thomas Eisele, U.S.D.J.

 Pending before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted.

 In seeking summary judgment, defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim. Citing District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S. Ct. 1303, 75 L. Ed. 2d 206 (1984), defendants state that this Court has no authority to review a state judicial decision that plaintiff's license should be suspended.

 The United States Supreme Court found that the proceedings before the Court of Appeals were judicial and thus that Mr. Feldman could not challenge the decision in federal court. The Court found that, as with final state decisions, the only permissable review of the Court of Appeal's decision was direct review by the Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 1257.

 The Supreme Court's decision in Feldman was then the basis of the opinion of Thomas v. Kadish, 748 F.2d 276 (1984), a decision by the 5th Circuit involving facts similar to those presented in the instant situation. In Thomas v. Kadish, Mr. Thomas was denied admission to the bar of Texas by the Texas State Board of Law Examiners on the basis of mental unfitness. Although plaintiff could have obtained review of that decision by an appeal to Texas district court, plaintiff instead filed suit in federal district court contending that the Board's decision was the result of racial and religious discrimination. The Fifth Circuit found that the Board's decision should be considered a state judicial decision, and that under federal/state comity and Feldman, only higher state courts, and ultimately the United States Supreme Court, had authority to review the Board's decision.

 This Court must determine whether the principles enunciated in Feldman and Thomas deprive this Court of jurisdiction over the instant case. Here, plaintiff's license to practice law was suspended by the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct. The Supreme Court Committee is a committee created and appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. The hearings conducted by the Committee are conducted pursuant to rules promulgated by the supreme court. If one disciplined by the Committee wishes to appeal the Committee's decision, the individual may file an appeal to the supreme court, and "on appeal, the matter shall be heard de novo upon the record made before the trial judge, and this Court shall pronounce such judgment as in its opinion should have been pronounced below." *fn1"

 The Committee had received a complaint from an attorney, Mr. Robert Pierce, contending that plaintiff had signed Mr. Pierce's name to a check without authorization. The Committee subsequently held a hearing on Mr. Pierce's complaint. At his hearing, plaintiff and another witness testified that plaintiff had received authority from Mr. Pierce to sign his name, while Mr. Pierce testified that he had never given such authority. At the end of the hearing, the Committee voted to suspend plaintiff's license to practice law for a year. In the instant action, plaintiff contends that the Committee's decision, which effectively found that plaintiff had committed forgery, was the result of racial and religious discrimination and was also made in retaliation for his having sought a hearing. Had he been white, plaintiff contends, his license would not have been suspended.

 It should be emphasized that in this action, plaintiff is not making a facial challenge to the rules under which he was disciplined. (Although plaintiff initially may have raised some general constitutional challenges to the rules, the Court has disposed of those contentions in its order denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.) Specifically, plaintiff is not here contending that if he committed forgery, he should not have been suspended. Plaintiff is contending that he did not commit forgery, and that the Committee's decision effectively finding otherwise was racially motivated.

 The Court believes that under the principles of Feldman and Thomas, the decision of the defendant Committee must be treated as a judicial decision. As explained by the Supreme Court in Feldman,

 
A judicial inquiry investigates, declares and enforces liabilities as they stand on present or past facts and under laws supposed already to exist.

 Id. at 1312.

 And, as the court stated in ...


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