Note to Indiana attorneys: don’t permanently relinquish your law license in this state unless you’re absolutely sure you won’t ever want to return. If you do, don’t be surprised if you have to take the bar exam again.
That’s the message the Indiana Supreme Court reiterated on Monday, issuing an order in Ronald W. Harmeyer v. State Board of Law Examiners, No. 94S00-1107-BL-4686, that denies a former Fort Wayne lawyer’s request to be readmitted in Indiana without re-taking the bar exam here.
Admitted in 1992, Ron W. Harmeyer began practicing in Indiana and was admitted in Wisconsin in 1996. In late 2008, he submitted an affidavit of permanent withdrawal to the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission and agreed that he would need to comply with Admission and Discipline Rules 3-21 if he ever wanted to return to practice in Indiana. His license was relinquished in December 2008.
Under the state’s attorney admission rules, lawyers must take the bar exam and be admitted within two years, or they must take the exam again. Retired attorneys can be readmitted through lesser requirements without retaking the bar exam, but that does not apply in this case. Harmeyer sought and received permanent withdrawal.
On July 11, 2011, Harmeyer called the Indiana Board of Law Examiners to ask about reinstatement and was told he’d either have to retake the Indiana bar exam or seek a provisional or business counsel license to be readmitted. He filed a petition with the Supreme Court that same day requesting a review of the BLE’s final decision, arguing that the state admission rules require a person to take and pass the bar exam here only once and so he shouldn’t have to do so again.
“The phrases ‘final action’ and ‘final determination’ (in Admission and Discipline Rule 14) denote a greater degree of formality than exists in Harmeyer’s situation,” Chief Justice Randall Shepard wrote in the order, noting that the information wasn’t a “final action” as Harmeyer described it.
Harmeyer’s petition is dismissed as procedurally premature. But Chief Justice Shepard added that even if Harmeyer’s petition followed a “final action” from the BLE, the court would likely have denied it because the rules clearly inform attorneys the consequences of permanently relinquishing their law licenses – that includes passing the bar exam again if the lawyer has not secured a provisional or business counsel license.