94 N.J.L.J. 1077
November 18, 1971
Out-of-State Attorney: Office in This State for Federal
Specialist in United States Customs and Tariff Laws
A member of the New York Bar, resident of this State, wrote
the Committee to ask if he could open an office to practice law in
this State if he limited his practice to matters involving the
United States customs and tariff laws. The Committee has adopted
the following as its advisory opinion on the subject matter, which
is in the form of the pertinent portion of the letter response to
You have indicated that you are a resident of this State, a member of the New York Bar, and are admitted to various federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Customs Court and the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. You are not now practicing law in either New York or New Jersey, being a member of a college faculty where you teach business law. You wrote this Committee to ask if you can open an office to practice law in this State if you limit your practice to matters involving the United States customs and tariff laws. You would represent clients at the administrative level before the United States agencies in New Jersey having jurisdiction over customs matters. Litigation would be restricted to the handling of cases before the United States Customs Court in New York City or
the Court of Customs and Patents Appeals in Washington, D.C., where you would also represent clients before the United States Tariff Commission. You would not engage in any matter involving New Jersey law or the New Jersey State courts or agencies.
The fact that an attorney is admitted to practice in another state does not give him any right whatever to practice law in this State unless he becomes a member of the New Jersey Bar or is otherwise authorized to practice by our Supreme Court Rule 1:21, as amended, neither of which exceptions covers your present situation. So far as this State is concerned, you are generally to be considered a non-lawyer [with exceptions not here pertinent, such as in Appel v. Reiner, 43 N.J. 313 (1964).]
No exception from the foregoing is made in the case of out-of- state lawyers who are specialists, whether they are deemed to be such with respect to the law of a sister State or the law of a foreign country, Matter of Roel, 3 N.Y. 2d 224, 165 N.Y.S. 2d 31 (1957), or with respect to federal law generally. Petition of Kearney, 63 So. 2d 630 (Fla. 1963); Ginsburg v. Kovrak, 392 Pa. 143, 139 A. 2d 889, appeal dismissed for want of a substantial federal question, 358 U.S. 52 (1958). The trial court's opinion in Ginsburg contained this statement (139 A. 2d at 892):
"No case has been suggested to us which holds that membership in the Bar of the United States Supreme Court entitles an attorney to practice anywhere in the United States without reference to local State requirements."
See, also, Spanos v. Skouras Theaters Corporation, 364 F. 2d 161 (2d Cir. 1966), Cert. denied, 385 U.S. 987 (1966), where the Court said at the conclusion of the opinion on which you in part rely:
"And we in no way sanction a practice whereby a lawyer not admitted to practice by a state maintains an office there and holds himself out to give advice to all comers on federal matters." Id. at 171.
A person not a member of the New Jersey Bar, who is admitted to practice before a federal agency, may have an office in this State to perform those functions which are reasonably within the scope of practice authorized to any non-lawyer by any valid federal statute or valid federal administrative regulation. To this extent New Jersey's substantial interest in regulating the practice of law within its borders must yield under the federal supremacy clause, but not beyond. Sperry v. Florida Bar, 373 U.S. 379 (1963); Auerbacher v. Wood, 139 N.J. Eq. 599, 604 (Ch. 1947), aff'd. 142 N.J. Eq. 484 (E. & A. 1948). However, such person does not have any sweeping license or general right to practice law in his particular field, without becoming a member of the New Jersey Bar. Sperry v. Florida Bar, supra, 373 U.S. at 402.
It follows from all of the foregoing that you can have an office in this State without becoming admitted to the New Jersey Bar if you do what a layman can do in this State under any federal authorization to practice in the customs and tariff field and if you restrict your activities to those appropriate and necessary for the accomplishment of the federal objectives. We repeat our earlier conclusion that you may not practice federal law here generally, even in that field, until you become a member of the New Jersey Bar. It is for you to anchor the Sperry holding to your specific fact situation in the customs and tariff field, and to limit your activities accordingly.