The Third Department denied the applications of two Massachusetts attorneys (Fee and Lawless) for a waiver of the Judiciary Law requirement that they maintain a physical office in New York in order to practice in New York. The Third Department, following the Second Department and disagreeing with the First, determined the legal work performed by the attorneys to date was not null and void:
Upon our review of Judiciary Law § 470, we find that it unambiguously provides, without exception, that a prerequisite for a nonresident attorney to practice law in this state is that he or she maintain a physical law office here. In our view, Fee’s and Lawless’ requests for a waiver of the clear mandate of Judiciary Law § 470 “finds no support in the wording of the provision and would require us to take the impermissible step of rewriting the statute” … . In addition to holding that no statutory authority exists for granting the waivers, we also find that creating an avenue for nonresident attorneys to obtain a waiver of the law office requirement would amount to the type of rulemaking reserved for the Court of Appeals (see generally Judiciary Law § 53). Accordingly, Fee’s and Lawless’ applications are denied.
Finally, we reject plaintiff’s contention that all of the work performed by Fee and Lawless in this action should be declared void from the beginning. In reaching this conclusion, we adopt the Second Department’s reasoning in Elm Mgt. Corp. v Sprung (33 AD3d 753 ) that “the fact that a party has been represented by a person who was not authorized or admitted to practice law under the Judiciary Law . . . does not create a ‘nullity’ or render all prior proceedings void per se” … , and we note our disagreement with the First Department’s cases holding to the contrary … . Stegemann v Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Off., 2017 NY Slip Op 06114, Third Dept 8-10-17
ATTORNEYS (OUT-OF-STATE ATTORNEYS, MASSACHUSETTS’ ATTORNEYS’ REQUEST FOR A WAIVER OF THE JUDICIARY LAW REQUIREMENT THAT THEY MAINTAIN A PHYSICAL OFFICE IN NEW YORK IN ORDER TO PRACTICE IN NEW YORK DENIED (THIRD DEPT))/JUDICIARY LAW (OUT-OF-STATE ATTORNEYS, MASSACHUSETTS’ ATTORNEYS’ REQUEST FOR A WAIVER OF THE JUDICIARY LAW REQUIREMENT THAT THEY MAINTAIN A PHYSICAL OFFICE IN NEW YORK IN ORDER TO PRACTICE IN NEW YORK DENIED (THIRD DEPT))