Letter to Gov. Hochul in Support of the Repeal of Section 470 of Judiciary Law
December 14, 2023
The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, New York 12224
Re: Senate Bill No. 3261
Dear Governor Hochul:
We are the Co-Chairs of the Committee on Professionalism and Professional Discipline of the New York County Lawyers Association (“NYCLA”), New York State’s third largest voluntary bar association. We write on behalf of the Committee to strongly urge you to sign into law Senate Bill No. 3261, which would repeal Section 470 of the New York Judiciary Law (“Section 470”). Section 470 requires lawyers admitted to practice in New York and who wish to practice here to maintain a law office in New York State – whether such an office is needed or not. This requirement is outmoded. It runs contrary to New York State’s desire to become the nation’s pre-eminent forum for dispute resolution while maximizing access to justice for all those with New York-based legal problems. It should be repealed.
Section 470 is the product of another, earlier age. It has its origins in the mid-19th century, literally the “horse-and-buggy” era, when primitive modes of transportation and communication made it difficult to serve, communicate with or meet with lawyers across state lines. Requiring New York-admitted lawyers to have an office here made it easier for clients to reach them and adversaries and courts to locate them.
What made sense 150 years ago, however, does not make sense now. With modern transportation, email, e-filing, Zoom meetings and the like, lawyers, clients and courts communicate across state lines literally every minute of every day. As recent amendments to our remote practice rules recognize, those who want to use a New York-admitted lawyer should be able to use that lawyer regardless of their (and the lawyer’s) physical location. This will help ensure that those with New York-based legal problems are able to access New York’s courts and legal systems, without having to track down a lawyer with a New York office. Wherever they are located, lawyers can now be easily contacted by clients via phone or Internet, reached by adversaries via email, and served with court papers through New York’s electronic court filing (“ECF”) system. Section 470 no longer serves a useful purpose, and just makes it harder for New York-admitted lawyers living out-of-state – but who have passed the New York Bar Examination and been approved by our Committee on Character & Fitness – to service clients who need them.
We join with the New York State Bar Association and countless lawyers and others around the state who care about access to justice in asking that this outmoded statute be immediately repealed.
Please contact us if you have any questions or we can be of further assistance. This letter has been approved by NYCLA’s Committee on Professionalism and Professional Discipline and approved for submission by NYCLA’s President; this letter does not necessarily represent the views of NYCLA’s Board of Directors.
Ronald C. Minkoff
cc: Elizabeth Fine, Chief Counsel to the Governor
Cherell Beddard, Assistant Counsel to the Governor