Bar Association’s Mass Disaster Rule

Recently the New York State Bar Association released its Current Legal Issues Affecting The Profession 2008 – a manual containing concise summaries of 33 subjects of concern to the legal profession. One of the more interesting concerns of the NY Bar Association this year is who should be able to provide legal services in the wake of a major disaster in New York. The NY Bar Association has been considering this question since the American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a Model Court Rule on the Provision of Legal Services Following a Major Disaster, and the ABA asked the states to consider adoption of their Model Rule.

After considering the ABA Model Rule, the State Bar Association has come up with its own variant which it now proposes be adopted as Rule 520.11(A) of the Rules of the Court of Appeals. Under this Proposed Rule, upon the declaration of a disaster or emergency by the Executive Branch, the Court shall determine whether an emergency exists in the justice system, requiring the assistance of lawyers from outside New York. And if the Court determines that there is such an emergency in the justice system, lawyers who are authorized to practice law in another jurisdiction may provide legal services in New York only a temporary basis, and without compensation from the client. In addition, such services are to be supervised through established, designated programs as set forth in the proposed rule. The proposed rule would not give authority for court appearances by lawyers from outside New York, except pursuant to the rules governing pro hac vice admission or pursuant to a declaration by the court granting such permission. Out-of-state lawyers providing services pursuant to the rule would also be subject to the disciplinary authority of the Appellate Division and would be required to file a registration statement with the Office of Court Administration.

I’m not sure it gives me great comfort to know that in the event of a mass disaster I won’t have to pay out-of-state attorneys, but would have to pay in-state attorneys. Isn’t it interesting that the State Bar Association’s concern in the event of a mass disaster is that they continue to get paid, but other lawyers seeking to help won’t get paid?

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