Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Scheer v. Kelly

By
Plaintiff, a lawyer in California, filed suit challenging California’s procedures for attorney discipline. Plaintiff alleged that California violated her constitutional rights by not providing her meaningful judicial review in a fee dispute between herself and a client, and that the rules governing the California State Bar’s disciplinary procedures are facially unconstitutional. The court agreed with the State Bar that plaintiff's as-applied challenges are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. However, the court concluded that the State Bar misreads this Court’s statute-of-limitations decision in Action Apartment Ass’n, Inc. v. Santa Monica Rent Control Board, which only applies to facial challenges involving property rights. In this case, plaintiff's facial claims are not time-barred because she filed her claim well within the two-year statute of limitations. On the merits, the court concluded that plaintiff's facial claims based on California’s state constitution fail because they have already been rejected by the Supreme Court of California. The court concluded that, contrary to plaintiff's contentions, People v. Kelly did not overrule In re Rose, which stated that it is fundamental that state courts be left free and unfettered by the federal courts in interpreting their state constitutions. Plaintiff's First Amendment claims are unsupported because the court was aware of no case holding that the First Amendment provides a freestanding right for an individual to have a state court hear her dispute in the absence of some asserted state or federal cause of action, statutory or judge-made. Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection claims also fail where California's change in its attorney discipline procedures are not so significant as to create a due process violation. While the regulation of lawyers in California is unlike California’s regulation of any other professionals, plaintiff has not demonstrated that this regulatory scheme violates Equal Protection. California’s decision to regulate lawyers principally via a judicially supervised administrative body attached to the State Bar of California, the organization of all state-licensed lawyers, is rational and so constitutional. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Scheer v. Kelly" on Justia Law