Lawyers Required to Perform Public Service: Ruling of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

By Fischer, Howard | International Journal of Humanities and Peace, Annual 2001 | Go to article overview

Lawyers Required to Perform Public Service: Ruling of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals


Fischer, Howard, International Journal of Humanities and Peace


Phoenix-Attorneys can be forced to take work they don't want at pay far less than they normally charge, a federal appeals court has ruled. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by a Fountain Hills lawyer that the government was illegally taking his time without providing proper compensation. The court said that practicing law is a privilege and not a right-and the state Supreme Court can impose condition on those privileges.

At the heart of the battle is a Supreme Court rule requiring mandatory arbitration of small civil lawsuits-defined as less than $50,000 in Maricopa County where Scheehle practices. If the parties do not stipulate to a particular arbitrator, the court appoints one. Attorneys who are named as arbitrators receive $75 for each day hearing a case. There is no reimbursement for expenses such as postage or copying, nor if the case is settled or otherwise concluded before a formal arbitration hearing is held. The Clerk of Superior Court assigns cases to the next available name on the list of eligible attorneys. When all names have been used, the clerk goes back to the top; attorneys who have served for at least two days in the year can be excused.

Scheehle refused, contending the system is unconstitutional. But a trial judge, after hearing those arguments, rejected them and then fined Scheehle $900 for refusing to take the case. …

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