Thursday, November 15, 2007

Scheehle v. Justices of the Supreme Court of Arizona (9th Cir. - Nov. 15, 2007)

This is a very good opinion by Judge Callahan. Well-written. Well-argued. Tight. Persuasive. Complete.

It also concerns an interesting subject. Or at least something near and dear to our own hearts. The question is whether it's a "taking" for the Maricopa (Arizona) Superior Court to require all experienced attorneys who reside in the county to serve as (essentially) volunteer arbitrators once or twice a year. Which in turn is a constitutional law perspective on an ethical issue that we often talk about in professional responsibility classes: whether aspirational, or mandatory, pro bono obligations for attorneys are legitimate.

On the constitutional law side, my own view is that Judge Callahan is clearly right, and that this doesn't involve a compensable taking. And, on the ethical side, my view tends to similarly be that it's legitimate for the state to require pro bono efforts by counsel. Whether such a requirement is wise, of course, may be a different issue. But on the ethical and constitutional side, at a minimum, I think that the obligees (lawyers) so massively benefit from the state-created, artificial monopoly granted to attorneys (e.g., through the UPL statutes) that they can't permissibly complain if one aspect of that state-created right is the obligation to provide a fraction of that benefit back in pro bono services. Especially when, as here, you join this profession with full knowledge of that requirement in advance.

Even those with a different view, however, might find Judge Callahan's opinion -- as well as the underlying dispute -- worth considering. It's a great issue. And one that hits close to home.