November 20, 2014
IN RE RULES GOVERNING ADMISSION TO THE BAR, RULE VII
In the wake of our decisions in Chandler v. Martin, 2014 Ark. 219; Kelly v. Martin, 2014 Ark. 217; Bailey v. Martin, 2014 Ark. 213; and Williams v. Martin, 2014 Ark. 210, raising issues with Rule VII(C) of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar, we asked the Arkansas Bar Association to appoint a Task Force to review the rule and make a recommendation to this court. The Task Force has completed its work, which has been endorsed by the Arkansas Bar Association, and a petition has been filed to amend the rule.
We thank the members of the Task Force and the Bar Association for their work. Because time is of the essence, we must act on the proposal without the opportunity of publishing it for comment. Accordingly, we accept the recommendation with minor revisions and adopt the amendment to Rule VII(C) as a provisional rule, effective immediately. This rule shall be in place during the next license renewal period, which will enable the Clerk of the Supreme Court and the members of the bar to assess how it is working and to determine whether aspects of the rule may need to be revised. We anticipate taking final action on the rule in June 2015, and we welcome comments from the public before June 1, 2015. Comments should be submitted in writing and addressed to Stacey Pectol, Clerk, Supreme Court of Arkansas, Attn.: Rule VII, Justice Building, 625 Marshall Street, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201.
RULES GOVERNING ADMISSION TO THE BAR
Rule VII. Application for license.
C. SUSPENSION FOR FAILURE TO PAY FEE.
(1.) Failure to pay the annual license fee provided in subsection A of this Rule VII shall automatically suspend the delinquent lawyer as provided herein from the practice of law in Arkansas and result in the imposition of additional penalties. The annual license fee and late-payment penalties shall be established from time to time by the Court by per curiam orders.
(2.) All notices required to be sent by the Supreme Court Clerk under this Rule shall be sent by regular mail to the address of record for each licensed attorney on file with the Clerk.
(3.) All required submissions to the Clerk's office under this Rule shall be deemed to be dated and submitted as of the date of receipt in the Clerk's office in Little Rock.
(4.) The Clerk shall send each attorney a notice in December stating that the annual license fee is due on January 1; that the fee is delinquent if not paid by March 1, resulting in a penalty of $100; that if the fee and penalty are not paid by April 1 an additional penalty of $100 will be imposed; that the attorney's license shall be automatically suspended if the license fee and all penalties due are not paid in full by April 15 or the next business day for the Clerk's office if the Clerk's office is closed on April 15; and that the delinquent attorney shall be listed as being in a suspended-license status in a per curiam order issued by the Supreme Court after April 15.
(5.) After March 1, the Clerk shall send another notice to all attorneys not yet having paid their license fee that they are delinquent and owe a penalty of $100; such notice shall also contain the same information included in the December notice.
(6.) On or about April 1, the Clerk shall send a third and final notice to all attorneys not yet having paid their license fee that they are delinquent and owe a second penalty of $100; such notice shall also contain the same information included in the December notice.
(7.) The final deadline for payment of the license fee and all penalties shall be April 15 or the next business day for the Clerk's office if the Clerk's office is closed on April 15.
(8.) The names of all delinquent attorneys shall be listed by the Clerk in a per curiam order (the "April 16 per curiam") presented to the Court as soon as practicable after April 15. All attorneys named therein shall be ineligible thereafter to practice law in the courts of the State of Arkansas until reinstated as provided in this Rule. The Clerk shall promptly post a copy of the per curiam on the court's website, send a copy of the per curiam to all state and federal judges in Arkansas by mail or email, and mail a copy to each attorney named in the per curiam.
(9.) For any attorney paying in full the license fee and all penalties due after April 16, the Clerk shall issue receipt for payment in such form that receipt shall act as proof of good standing of the attorney until such time as the per curiam order is issued by the Clerk.
(10.) The critical license-renewal dates are:
a. January 1 - License fee due
b. March 2 - Delinquency occurs and late-payment penalty of $100 imposed
c. April 2 - Additional late payment penalty of $100 imposed
d. April 15 or the next business day for the Clerk's office if the Clerk's office is closed on April 15 - Final deadline to pay license fee and penalties
e. April 16 - The April 16 per curiam order shall issue listing those attorneys suspended for license fee and penalties not paid by April 15 or the next business day for the Clerk's office if the Clerk's office is closed on April 15.
(11.) Any attorney who believes his or her name is listed in the April 16 per curiam order by mistake may appeal administratively by providing evidence of the mistake to the Clerk. Any appeal to the Clerk shall be accompanied by full tender to the Clerk of the license fee and all penalties in issue. Any appeal to the Clerk under this Rule shall not be docketed as a case before the Supreme Court, but shall be treated as an administrative matter with the Clerk acting on behalf of the Court.
(12.) The Clerk will notify the attorney if the Clerk agrees that a mistake was made. If the Clerk determines that there was a mistake and that the license fee and any penalty due was timely paid, the matter will be concluded. Any excess payment received by the Clerk shall be refunded to the attorney within thirty (30) days of the Clerk's determination, and the Clerk shall submit to the Court a per curiam order to amend the April 16 per curiam order to remove that attorney's name, whereupon the attorney shall be reinstated retroactively to March 1 of the year in question.
(13.) If the Clerk concludes that there was no mistake, the Clerk shall notify the attorney. The attorney may then petition the Supreme Court, paying the standard filing fee, asking that the Court review the attorney's allegations of a mistake which resulted in the attorney being listed as delinquent and having his or her license suspended in the April 16 per curiam order. Any such appeal shall be docketed as a civil case before the Court and be accompanied by the standard filing fee for a civil appeal. A briefing schedule shall be issued by the Clerk with the attorney briefing first, followed by the Clerk briefing. If the Court grants relief and orders reinstatement to March 1, any excess payment of license fee and penalties received by the Clerk shall be refunded to the attorney within thirty (30) days of the Court's order.
(14.) An attorney may also appeal administratively based on a claim of serious and excusable circumstance following the process in subsections (11), (12), and (13).
(15.) Filing any administrative appeal or a petition for reinstatement shall automatically result in a stay of the license suspension from the date of filing until final action on the appeal or petition.
(16.) Delinquency status in a given year dates from March 2 of the year in which the fees are due.
(17.) Any time after April 15 of the first year and before a delinquency of three years, upon payment of all license fees and penalties and a reinstatement filing fee of $100, the Clerk shall issue a per curiam order in the name of the Court reinstating the attorney to good standing and listing the attorney's name in the category of those reinstated since the previous per curiam order on the same subject.
(18.) If a delinquency is for more than three (3) consecutive years, application to the Board of Law Examiners for reinstatement must be made by the suspended attorney on a form supplied by the Executive Secretary of the Board and accompanied by a tender of all unpaid license fees and penalties and a Board reinstatement fee of $100.
(19.) Periodically, the Clerk shall submit to the Court a proposed per curiam listing all attorneys whose names shall be removed from the April 16 per curiam listing of attorneys suspended. The per curiam shall consist of two categories and listings of attorneys. Category One shall list all attorneys who are still in suspended-license status for nonpayment of license fee and penalties. Category Two shall list all attorneys who have been returned to paid status since the last per curiam order on the status of license fees. In the next per curiam after an attorney's name first appears in Category Two, that attorney's name shall be deleted from the per curiam.
(20.) The late penalties set out in this Rule shall not apply to any attorney whose license (a) has been placed in inactive status by the Committee on Professional Conduct or (b) is the age 65 or older and who certifies that his or her primary source of income does not derive from the practice of law.
(21.) This Rule shall be effective for license fees due for the year 2015, and shall not be applied retroactively to any previous year.
(22.) All deadlines imposed by this rule shall be subject to the extension of time for deadlines occurring on a day when the Clerk's office is closed, as provided in Rule 9 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure–Civil.