Forced Employment For Lawyers In Arizonaby Doug Mataconis
On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Arizona has the right to force attorneys who practice there to preside on arbitration panels at incredibly reduced rates:
A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld an Arizona court rule requiring lawyers to serve as arbitrators on some civil cases with little pay, even if they object.
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco came 10 years after tax attorney Mark V. Scheehle of Prescott Valley objected to being forced to serve as an arbitrator in a civil case in Maricopa County, a duty required of Arizona lawyers.
Scheehle argued the rule was an unconstitutional “taking” of property by the government without just compensation.
The appeals court rejected the argument, referring to an earlier case where it ruled that “courts have long recognized that attorneys, because of their profession, owe some duty to the court and to the public to serve without compensation when called on.”
Arizona requires lawyers to arbitrate civil disputes valued at under $65,000. The attorneys are paid $75 per day, without being reimbursed for expenses. They are not required to take new cases in a given year if they have served two or more days.
Just for reference $ 75 per day pays for maybe 15 minutes of the average attorney’s time at standard hourly rates.
This is an issue that’s been discussed among attorneys in the past. On more than one occasion, the American Bar Association has proposed that all attorneys in the United States be required to provide a set number of hours of pro bono (free) legal representation to the public, whether they want to or not.
Leaving aside for the second the absurdity of a lawyer who has spent his career practicing tax law attempting to arbitrate a civil dispute (contrary to what you might think, just because you passed the bar doesn’t mean you know everything about the law), or a real estate lawyer being forced to provide pro bono legal representation to a guy charged with marijuana possession, whatever happened to the idea that an individual owns himself, his time, and his skills ?
Yes, the legal profession may be licensed by the state — and we can argue over whether that’s a good idea another time — but so are hairdressers and plumbers. Do you hear anything about plumbers being required to fix toilets for free ? Didn’t think so.
Why should someone who wants to practice law in the State of Arizona be forced to engage in labor for the state at a rate of compensation that barely recognizes the level of skill of person involved ?
Lawyers may be officers of the Court, but they shouldn’t be treated like slaves of the state.
H/T: Kip Esquire