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In re Application of O'Siochain

Supreme Court of Nebraska

February 14, 2014

In re Application of Mark R. O'Siochainfor Admission to the Nebraska State Bar.

Page 764

Original action. Application granted.

Robert C. Guinan for applicant.

Jon Bruning, Attorney General, and Stephanie Caldwell for Nebraska State Bar Commission.

Heavican, C.J., Wright Conolly, Stephan, McCormack, Miller-Lerman

Syllabus

1. Rules of the Supreme Court: Attorneys at Law: Appeal and Error. The Nebraska Supreme Court will consider the appeal of an applicant from a final adverse ruling of the Nebraska State Bar Commission de novo on the record made at the hearing before the commission.

2. Rules of the Supreme Court: Attorneys at Law. The Nebraska Supreme Court is vested with the sole power to admit persons to the practice of law in this state and to fix qualifications for admission to the Nebraska bar.

3. Rules of the Supreme Court: Attorneys at Law: Waiver: Proof: Appeal and Error. After the denial of an application and a hearing before the Nebraska State Bar Commission, the Nebraska Supreme Court will consider a waiver of Neb. Ct. R. § 3-105(A)(1)(b) to allow a graduate of a foreign law school based on English common law to become licensed to practice law in Nebraska if the applicant has demonstrated that the education he or she received was functionally equivalent to that for a juris doctor degree available at a law school approved by the American Bar Association.

4. Rules of the Supreme Court: Attorneys at Law: Waiver: Proof. When a foreign-educated attorney seeks a waiver of Neb. Ct. R. § 3-105(A)(1)(b), the burden is on the applicant to affirmatively show that the education he or she received was functionally equivalent to that of a law school approved by the American Bar Association.

5. Rules of the Supreme Court: Attorneys at Law: Waiver: Evidence. In determining whether an applicant's education is functionally equivalent to that received at a law school approved by the American Bar Association, the core courses set forth in In re Application of Brown, 270 Neb. 891, 708 N.W.2d 251 (2006), are evidence of equivalency but not bright-line requirements.

6. Rules of the Supreme Court: Attorneys at Law. Admission rules are intended to weed out unqualified applicants, not to prevent qualified applicants from taking the bar.

7. Rules of the Supreme Court: Attorneys at Law. The Nebraska Supreme Court will not apply a strict application of Neb. Ct. R. § 3-105(C) if, in doing so, § 3-105(C) would operate in such a manner as to deny admission to a qualified graduate of a foreign law school arbitrarily

Page 765

and for a reason unrelated to the essential purpose of the rule.

PER CURIAM.

[287 Neb. 446] NATURE OF CASE

Mark R. O'Siochain filed an application with the Nebraska State Bar Commission (Commission) for admission without examination as a Class I-A applicant. We must decide whether we will grant a waiver of the educational requirement contained in Neb. Ct. R. § 3-105(A)(1)(b) and admit a graduate of a foreign law school that is not approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Since O'Siochain filed his application, § 3-105(A)(1)(b) has been significantly revised, along with the other rules for admission of attorneys in Nebraska. See Neb. Ct. R. § 3-101 et seq. (rev.2013). We apply the rules in effect at the time of his application.

Upon our de novo review and applying our jurisprudence regarding § 3-105(A)(1)(b), we conclude that even though O'Siochain has not taken certain core courses, he has met his burden of affirmatively showing that he " had attained educational qualifications at least equal to those required at the time of application for admission by examination to the bar of Nebraska." Accordingly, we waive the educational requirement under § 3-105(A)(1)(b) and grant O'Siochain's application for admission to the Nebraska bar.

FACTS

O'Siochain graduated from University College Dublin (UCD) in Ireland in 2004 with a bachelor of business and legal studies degree. He enrolled at UCD after graduating from high school, as is customary in Ireland, and completed a 4-year law and business program. UCD is an English-speaking, common-law school. It is not accredited by the ABA. O'Siochain did not take (and was not required to take) courses in trusts and estates, family law, or civil procedure.

UCD operates an international exchange program with 13 other law schools, including 5 ABA-approved U.S. law schools: DePaul University College of Law; University of California, Davis, School of Law; University of Connecticut [287 Neb. 447] School of Law; University of Miami School of Law; and University of Minnesota Law School. Students at these ABA-approved law schools can enroll at UCD for a semester or other period of study. If they complete their courses with the necessary passing grade, the ABA permits the award of credits to their ABA-approved juris doctor degree for the legal courses taken at UCD.

Upon graduating from UCD in 2004, O'Siochain took a " Barbri" course in Ireland to prepare for the New York bar examination in February 2005. Barbri is a franchise that offers bar examination preparation courses and includes video lectures and course materials corresponding with the relevant state bar examination. O'Siochain took Barbri courses in New York practice, professional ...


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