Recently, in Southerland v. Woo, 99 Civ. 3329, 2014 WL 704327 (EDNY 2014), Eastern District of New York Judge Brian Cogan denied attorney Brian King admission pro hac vice – a legal term meaning admission “for this occasion only” – in the retrial of a civil rights matter brought by a father and his children against a former New York City Administration for Children’s Services caseworker.
The decision is interesting because it outlines, in painstaking detail, the Court’s reasons for denying what is a common request usually granted as a matter of course.
Here’s the legal standard for obtaining admission pro hac vice:
The Second Circuit has set for the circumstances under which an unadmitted attorney may proceed in a district court within this Circuit. Admission pro hac vice for one trial does not extend to a subsequent trial in the matter. Admission pro hac vice is by definition, at most, admission for a single proceeding. An unadmitted attorney who seeks to represent a [party] upon a retrial must secure a second admission pro hac vice. It is axiomatic that admission to the Bar of one state does not carry with it the right to practice law anywhere else. Moreover, [j]ust as with a regularly admitted attorney, one seeking admission pro hac vice is subject to the ethical standards and supervision of the court. Indeed, before a district court can admit an attorney pro hac vice, the court must have some reasonable assurance that such attorney is familiar with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules for the [Eastern] District of New York, this Court’s Individual Rules, and the customs and practices of this Court. It follows from this that an attorney who is admitted pro hac vice must comport himself in the manner of attorneys who have standing admission to this Court.
Makes sense, right? Our house, our rules, when in Rome, and so on.
Apparently the Court did not believe that Mr. King met this standard:
Having had Mr. King try this case before me previously, it is clear that Mr. King does not meet this standard. This Court has had no attorney before it in any case who has demonstrated the defiance, lack of respect, and unawareness of local practice and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as Mr. King demonstrated during the trial of this case.
To quote one of my favorite philosophers, “that’s gotta hurt.”
The Court proceeded to give several non-exhaustive examples, beginning with Mr. King’s “refus[al] to acknowledge his obligation to be on time”:
THE COURT: Mr. King has entered the courtroom. Mr. King, it’s 9:43, the jury has been waiting for you since 9:30. You heard me yesterday emphasize to them how it was important that they be prompt so that they not keep us all waiting and you have kept us all waiting. Please be on notice that I will impose a substantial monetary fine if you are late particularly since you missed the pretrial conference for being late and then you then wrote a letter assuring me that you will not be late again so this is your final warning, sir.
MR. KING: Your Honor, I would like to make a record.
THE COURT: Go ahead.
MR. KING: I’ve only been practicing law for eight years now. I practiced in federal courts, state courts throughout this nation. I worked for a federal judge in—
THE COURT: Mr. King, please get to your point.
MR. KING: That is my point.
THE COURT: That has nothing to do with your lateness. Trial was called for 9:30 everyone made to here [sic] but you.
MR. KING: Your Honor, I can never assure anyone I won’t be late, okay.
THE COURT: That’s quite a remarkable statement. That’s quite a remarkable statement.
MR. KING: Well, it’s true.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR. KING: And so I made my record. Thank you, your Honor.
At least he referred to the judge as “Your Honor”.
The Court then proceeded to cite other examples – including Mr. King’s apparent misrepresentation as to whether a stipulation had been obtained and his ignoring the Court’s “express direction” to disclose his witnesses for the next day – which in its view “suffice to demonstrate that Mr. King is not qualified to practice in this Court.”
If anything, this decision should be read by every new lawyer (and law student), as it demonstrates how not to conduct oneself in court.