The North Dakota Supreme Court adopted Rule 3.3, effective October 1, 2016, granting temporary licensure to practice law to military spouse attorneys stationed in North Dakota pursuant to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders. The rule offers military spouse attorneys the same rights and privileges as attorneys licensed in North Dakota, without restrictions on practice between certification and termination.

To qualify for temporary licensure under North Dakota’s Rule 3.3, the military spouse attorney must be licensed and a member in good standing in another jurisdiction and join their spouse pursuant to PCS orders in North Dakota.

Additionally, the military spouse attorney must hold a juris doctor degree from a law school with full or provisional American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation; and the military spouse attorney must be familiar with the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct.

To show eligibility to practice law under North Dakota’s Rule 3.3, military spouse attorneys must file an affidavit, file documentation of legal relationship to the service member, and file the service member’s PCS orders with the North Dakota State Board of Law Examiners.

While licensed in North Dakota, the military spouse attorney must pay membership fees to the State Bar Association of North Dakota and meet state Continuing Legal Education requirements.

The temporary licensure terminates with the PCS orders of the service member, except for unaccompanied orders; dissolution of the legal relationship between the service member and the military spouse attorney; suspension, disbarment, lack of good standing, or inactive bar membership in another jurisdiction; and, if the service member leaves military service.

Since 2011, when Military Spouse J.D. Network (MSJDN) began undertaking efforts to overcome licensure roadblocks, North Dakota has become the 21st state to create a special rule for military spouse attorneys.

MSJDN North Dakota State Director, Elizabeth Hancock, initiated efforts for the licensing rule last year. The Supreme Court of North Dakota’s Joint Committee on Attorney Standards proposed the rule on May 25, 2016, and the proposed rule was submitted for comment on June 2, 2016.

When the North Dakota Supreme Court convened September 1, 2016, Justices VandeWalle, Sandstrom, Kapsner, Crothers, and McEvers, directed the Clerk of the Supreme Court to enter the order adopting the rule.

“The new military spouse rule amendment allows for my husband to remain on track in his career and for me to practice law [in North Dakota] without having to go through the stress and time commitment of passing another bar exam,” said Hancock. “This is huge when we are only stationed somewhere for two to three years.”

The petition submitted for consideration of the proposed rule cited the efforts of MSJDN and the ABA to accommodate the military spouse attorneys who move frequently in support of the nation’s defense. See the petition here.

North Dakota is home to several military installations, most notably Minot Air Force Base, which hosts 5,424 active duty service members and 6,189 family members.

– by Faith Foote