Second Circuit Seeks Second Opinion on the Meaning of “Office” for Purposes of Non-Resident Lawyers – Update

For nearly three years, I’ve been tracking solo Ekaterina Schoenefeld’s challenge to the constitutionality of New York Judicial Code 470, which imposes an in-state office requirement – but only on nonresident lawyers. Schoenefeld won round one, when a federal district court judge ruled that the statute infringes on nonresident attorneys’ right to practice law in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause by imposing significant costs on non-resident lawyers that New York residents don’t bear. The state appealed to the Second Circuit – and as a non-resident New York lawyer, I was able to participate as a party to the amicus effort.

Last week -after a year and a half – the Second Circuit finally ruled.(See opinion here. In a somewhat anti-climactic decision, the court certified the question of the meaning of the word “office” – explaining that if the term as used in the statute means a set of rooms or physical space, then the New York law is unconstitutional because it imposes undue burdens on out of state residents.

And so the wheels of justice grind on….