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7th Circuit tosses would-be revolutionary's suit against Indiana bar

June 24, 2016

 A man who challenged an Indiana Board of Law Examiners rule prohibiting a person “who advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or this state by force, violence or other unconstitutional or illegal means” lost Friday in the 7th Circuit of Appeals.

The rule is Section 3, Rule 12 of the Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and the Discipline of Attorneys. The man challenging the rule is John Otrompke, who has tried on several occasions to get into the Illinois bar and failed. Illinois’ committee on character and fitness deemed Otrompke unfit to practice law, citing his failure to acknowledge on his bar and law school applications his multiple arrests and firings over the previous decade, according to the 7th Circuit decision. He sought admission by suing the state’s board of admissions in federal court and lost.

Ten years later he sued again, and lost, and then appealed and lost at the 7th Circuit as the court ruled the district court had no jurisdiction to review the state supreme court’s decision rejecting his application.

Now he’s seeking to have Section 3, Rule 12 enjoined because he intends to engage in “revolutionary advocacy” as he calls it, by distributing the Charter of Carnaro as well as the Communist Manifesto, and is afraid his actions will violate Rule 12(3). He argues that Indiana is violating the First Amendment by refusing to admit people to the Indiana Bar who advocate overthrow of the government.

Judge Richard Posner wrote in the decision that Otrompke’s suit is premature and he lacks standing because he has not applied to the Indiana bar and has failed to show that unless he gets a judgment against Rule 12(3) his admission would be denied. “And that is highly unlikely, as we know from our previous involvement in his tempestuous relations with the Illinois bar authorities,” Posner wrote.

Posner wrote that Otrompke’s past with Illinois was all the more reason for him to follow necessary procedures. “Otrompke’s baleful Illinois experience makes it imperative that he apply to the Indiana bar authorities for admission before challenging the legality of the state’s rules for admission,” he wrote.

The case is John J. Otrompke v. Bradley Skolnik, Executive Director, Indiana State Board of   Law Examiners, and Greg Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, 15-3875

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