March 29, 2018

ABA urges Georgia Supreme Court to review case denying military spouse exemption

CHICAGO, March 29, 2018 — The American Bar Association has filed an amicus brief with the Georgia Supreme Court in an appeal brought by attorney Harriet O’Neal to be admitted to practice law in the state under a bar admission waiver for military spouses.

The ABA adopted policy in 2012 that urges state and territorial bars to adopt rules and regulations to accommodate the unique needs of military-spouse lawyers, who find themselves frequently moving because of transfers of their military spouses. To date, the Military Spouse JD Network says 30 licensing jurisdictions have adopted regulations consistent with ABA policy, with Georgia becoming the 22nd state in October 2016.

O’Neal, who was admitted to practice law in Louisiana in 2014 and is a dependent spouse of an active-duty Army infantry captain stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., filed for the waiver with the Georgia Board of Bar Examiners. The petition was denied without explanation.

“The ABA has concerns that the board’s failure to explain the basis for its decision to deny petitioner’s application risks the improper implementation of the waiver policy, undermining its utility, interfering with this court’s judicial review function and potentially violating petitioner’s procedural due process rights,” the brief said. It added that due process requires at a minimum advisement “of what the government proposes and to be heard upon its proposals before it issues its final command”

The ABA amicus brief filed with the Georgia Supreme Court is available here.

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