Tennessee’s Board of Law Examiners denied admission to a New York licensed attorney relocating to their… whatever passes for “shores” there. In an age of mobility, providing an efficient path for qualified attorney labor to flow to another jurisdiction is the precise scenario that inspired the UBE, which both New York and Tennessee employ. And yet, the Law Examiners dinged Violaine Panasci citing the attorney’s Canadian training (with a Pace Law LL.M.) and ignoring her existing New York license.
The Supreme Court of Tennessee has decided to be the voice of reason on this one, overruling the Board of Law Examiners stating that she cannot be denied admission based on bar exam gatekeepers deciding not to honor her first law degree.
It’s a victory for the Goldwater Institute, in conjunction with the Beacon Center of Tennessee and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, who filed a brief supporting Panasci’s admission. The Goldwater Institute is celebrating the opinion as a blow in favor of Tennessee’s right to earn a living law. I’m not a huge fan of that framing, since I actually like the idea of professional regulation and view right to earn a living laws as trojan horse vehicles to crush organized labor. But I can’t abide by protectionism or arbitrary bar examiners getting off on their own power so we can have an alliance on this one.
And that’s what’s going on here. The whole purpose of licensing is to guarantee that everyone practicing meets a minimum standard of competency. But we measure this with an exam that asks questions totally irrelevant to a specific attorney’s future practice, administered in a manner at odds with the practice of law, evaluated by officials beset by petty grievances willing to push the boundaries of legality. When the proxies we establish to demonstrate minimum competence end up excluding people who exceed that standard, the proxies are wrong.
In any event, congratulations to Panasci and the folks who stepped up on her behalf.
Finally, the state can live up to its promise: Give me your drunk, your rowdy, your bachelorette party masses yearning to breathe free.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.