SJC Approves Pro Hac Vice Fee Increase

You’ll recall that the BBA Council voted in February of this year to endorse a request from the IOLTA Committee to raise the pro hac vice admission fee. In June, the Supreme Judicial Court released an order amending SJC Rule 3:15, raising this fee. We are grateful to the court for being responsive to the thoughts and concerns of the IOLTA Committee and the BBA.

Keep reading to learn more about the BBA’s history with this request and the SJC’s order.

The BBA Council first took a position on this matter in 2011, when it voted to endorse the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission proposal to institute a pro hac vice admission fee, as had already been done in 41 other states and the District of Columbia. Following this proposal, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Rules Committee proposed, and the SJC eventually adopted, SJC Rule 3:15Pro hac vice registration fee, which imposes a $301 per-case fee for out-of-state lawyers seeking to appear in Massachusetts courts, unless the attorney is providing pro bono legal assistance to an indigent client. Under Rule 3:15, the proceeds go to the IOLTA Committee and are then distributed, in the same proportions as is its other revenue, to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, and the Boston Bar Foundation, in order to provide civil legal aid to low-income residents of Massachusetts.

This year, the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee submitted a request to amend SJC Rule 3:15 by increasing the $301 fee to $451, and BBA President Mark Smith submitted a letter to the court expressing support for the proposal, following a BBA Council vote to endorse the request. That increase would still leave Massachusetts within the range of existing fees, and states like Connecticut and Maine have fees that are above $551.

Overall, the BBA Council viewed the increase as reasonable within the context of the fee rates in other states and also an important way to increase access to justice in the Commonwealth. The initial proposal stemmed from a sharp drop in IOLTA revenue over the past decade, and unfortunately, projections for IOLTA revenue remain worryingly low. Meanwhile, as we’ve outlined many times there is an ever-increasing need for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth.

The SJC’s order amending Rule 3:15 increases the pro hac vice admission fee from $301 to $355. Though short of the amount requested, this increase will still offer substantial benefit to civil legal aid funding, and an estimated $30,000 will go to the IOLTA Committee annually. We are thankful the Court continued its long-standing support of access to justice by implementing this increase.

—Alexa Daniel
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association