As if life in the Virgin Islands wasn’t already appealing enough, the Supreme Court of the United States Virgin Islands has adopted a new rule to ease licensing barriers for military spouse attorneys in their jurisdiction. Today, the Court adopted a military spouse admissions provision that will go info effect on June 1, 2015. Supreme Court Rule 202.4, the rule providing “Special Admission for Military Spouses,” recognizes the unique mobility requirements of military families and honors that sacrifice with a licensing accommodation to reduce barriers to employment for military spouses in the legal profession.

Rule 202.4 gives the Court discretion to certify an attorney who is a spouse of a member of the U.S. Uniformed Services stationed within the Virgin Islands if the following conditions are met:

  • The attorney has been admitted to practice law and is on active status in another U.S jurisdiction;
  • The attorney holds a J.D. or comparable entry-level law degree from a law school approved by the ABA;
  • The attorney is currently a member in good standing of the bar of all courts and jurisdictions in which he or she is admitted to practice;
  • The attorney has never been suspended or disbarred, and is not currently the subject of an order of attorney discipline or a pending formal disciplinary or disability matter in any jurisdiction; and
  • The attorney possesses the character and fitness required of all applicants for admission to the practice of law in the Virgin Islands.

In order to utilize this path to practice, applicants must file an application with the clerk of the Court and prove good moral character; provide a certificate of good standing from each jurisdiction where licensed; and file an affidavit affirming presence in the Virgin Islands as a result of the service member’s duties, including a copy of a marriage license and orders. Additionally, a fee of $350 must be paid to the Court and the Committee of Bar Examiners.

Admission to practice under this rule will automatically expire after two years, unless the Virgin Island Bar Exam is taken within that time period. If the exam has been taken within the two-year window, the license may be extended for an additional year. The license will also automatically terminate for various other reasons, including if the service member receives permanent orders elsewhere (unless a remote or unaccompanied tour), leaves the Uniformed Services, or is divorced from the practicing attorney. Read the full text of the rule here.

“Licensing changes like rule 202.4 are about keeping families together as they serve our country alongside the service member,” said MSJDN President Rachel Winkler. “The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands is setting the standard for other jurisdictions by enacting this impactful change in support of military families.” With this new rule, the Virgin Islands become the 13th jurisdiction to adopt a licensing accommodation for military spouse attorneys. MSJDN applauds the initiative of the Court in a move that brings us one step closer to ensuring license portability in all jurisdictions. Read more about MSJDN licensing efforts and rules in other jurisdictions here.