By Casey Sullivan
Nov 21 (Reuters) - Personal injury firm Jacoby & Meyers has
won its bid to revive a lawsuit challenging a New York ethics
rule that bars non-lawyers from taking an ownership stake in law
Jacoby & Meyers, famous for its television advertisements,
first challenged the ethics rule, the New York Rule of
Professional Conduct 5.4, in May 2011. Federal court Judge Lewis
Kaplan dismissed the case in March, holding that the firm lacked
standing since it hadn't proved it had been harmed by the rule.
But on Wednesday a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals held that Jacoby & Meyers could amend the
lawsuit to challenge a number of other New York statutes that
prohibit non-lawyer ownership and resubmit the complaint to
In the lawsuit, Jacoby & Meyers named as defendants the
presiding justices from the state's appellate division, in the
First, Second, Third and Fourth Departments, who adopt and
oversee rules governing the conduct of lawyers.
In its order, the 2nd Circuit panel, including Walker,
circuit Judge Gerard Lynch and district Judge John Gleeson,
allowed Jacoby to amend the lawsuit with challenges to other New
York statutes, including the Judiciary Law and the Limited
Liability Partnership law.
"We see no reason not to remand the case back to the
district court, in order to permit the plaintiffs to amend their
complaint to name additional state defendants and challenge
other provisions of New York law that prohibit non-lawyer
investment in law firms," the panel wrote.
James Denlea, a lawyer for Jacoby & Meyers, said he expected
to file the amended complaint within 30 days.
A spokeswoman for the New York State Office of the Attorney
General declined comment.
New York, like the 49 other states, prohibits non-lawyers
from holding a stake in law firms. Washington, D.C., began
allowing the practice under certain conditions more than 20
years ago, and many European and other foreign countries,
including Australia, permit non-lawyer ownership of law firms.
The case is Jacoby & Meyers Law Offices v. The Presiding
Justices of the First, U.S. Court for the 2nd Circuit, No.
For Jacoby: James Denlea of Meiselman, Denlea, Packman,
Carton & Eberz.
For the justices: Won Shin, assistant solicitor general, New
York State Office of the Attorney General.
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