The Beacon Center of Tennessee filed a brief in the Tennessee Supreme Court supporting Violaine Panasci, an attorney who did not receive admission to the Tennessee Bar.
According to Beacon, the Tennessee Bar denied Panasci admission because she went “to the wrong law school.”
Panasci attained her law degree from the University of Ottawa and an L.L.M. degree from Pace University in New York. According to Beacon, she attained a 90th-percentile score on the Uniform Bar Exam.
She’s already licensed to practice law in New York. When Panasci moved to Tennessee, the Board denied her admission to the state bar, “because it said her Canadian legal education did not match up with the credit hours required for a U.S. bachelor’s degree and a U.S. Juris Doctor degree.”
“Government bureaucrats have no business stopping qualified professionals from doing their jobs,” the Beacon Center said in a statement.
Beacon is working in conjunction with the Goldwater Institute and the Southeastern Legal Foundation on the case.
A separate joint statement issued by Beacon, Goldwater and SLF says, “Our brief urges the Tennessee Supreme Court to overturn the Board’s decision, to reaffirm that the right to earn a living is a fundamental one protected by the state’s Constitution, and to recognize that the Right to Earn a Living Act provides a framework to ensure that licensing bodies do not arbitrarily infringe on the constitutional right to earn a living.”
The legal brief they filed points out that the right to earn a living is fundamental and argues the following:
The Tennessee Constitution protects the right to earn a living as a fundamental right. See Livesay, 322 S.W.2d at 213. Fundamental rights receive special judicial scrutiny. Planned Parenthood of Middle Tenn. v. Sundquist, 38 S.W.3d 1, 11 (Tenn. 2000). In 2016, the Tennessee General Assembly reaffirmed the right to earn a living as a fundamental right when it passed the Right to Earn a Living Act. See Pub. Ch. No. 1053. Under that statute, the announced public policy of Tennessee is that laws, regulations, and rules that impair an individual’s right to earn a living must be tailored to protect the health, safety, or welfare of Tennesseans. Id.
It also says:
Ensuring that individuals who practice law are properly educated can (and in many cases does) protect the public’s safety and welfare. See Schware, 353 U.S. at 238–39. But that does not mean generalized, unexamined education requirements allow for carte blanche denial of otherwise highly qualified applicants. Id. Instead, the Board must make individualized decisions, such as whether an individual’s particular foreign education is substantially equivalent to the U.S. education required for licensing. That is, the Board must consider an applicant’s right to earn a living measured against health, safety, or welfare concerns.
The Beacon Center “is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee. The Center was originally founded as the Tennessee Center for Policy Research in 2004 but became the Beacon Center in 2011.”
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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow Aaron on GETTR, Twitter, Truth Social, and Parler.
Photo “Tennessee State Supreme Court” by Thomas R. Machnitzki. CC BY 3.0.