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LAWLINE v. ABA

May 24, 1990

LAWLINE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants


James F. Holderman, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOLDERMAN

JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 I. BACKGROUND FACTS

 Lawline is a non-incorporated association of lawyers, paralegals and laypersons founded in 1978 by plaintiff Thomas O'Connell Holstein, an Illinois attorney. According to plaintiffs' voluminous complaint *fn1" the purposes of Lawline are fourfold:

 
(1) to use law students, paralegals, and lawyers to answer the legal questions of members of the general public over the telephone without charge and to assist them in pro se representation and routine quasi-administrative proceedings;
 
(2) to make referrals to public and private agencies providing free legal services;
 
(3) to refer members of the public with limited financial resources to young lawyers who charge reduced fees; and
 
(4) to create a "prototype" legal delivery system as an alternative to legal aid which would be subsidized by referral fees.

 (para. 29. *fn2"

 In accordance with these purposes, for ten years the lawyers, paralegals, and laypersons of Lawline have answered legal questions over the telephone, have assisted litigants acting pro se, and have made attorney referrals. (paras. 30-32.) Although Lawline concentrates its services in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, it also provides similar but more limited services on a national level through a toll free telephone number, 1-800-553-KNOW. Over 500,000 persons have been served by Lawline, which advertises extensively throughout the United States. (para. 38.)

 Three individual plaintiffs bring this action: Mr. Holstein, managing director and one of the supervising attorneys for Lawline, Le Nore Nelson, officer and head paralegal for Lawline, and Joyce Novak, a layperson who received legal information over the telephone from Lawline (in this instance from Ms. Nelson) and used this information to, pro se, successfully obtain a discharge of her debts in bankruptcy. (paras. 1, 3-4.)

 Plaintiffs bring this suit against myriad defendants: the American Bar Association ("ABA"), the Illinois State Bar Association ("ISBA"), the Chicago Bar Association ("CBA"), the Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court in their official capacities and the members of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility (collectively "Justices"), the members of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Illinois Supreme Court ("ARDC"), members of the Executive Committee of this court in their official capacities ("Executive Committee"), and M. Scott Michel, the United States Trustee for the Northern District of Illinois and his assistant Clifford L. Meacham (collectively "U.S. Trustee"). (paras. 6-15.)

 Plaintiffs challenge the defendants' promulgation, adoption, and enforcement of certain portions of the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility ("ABA Model Code"). The ABA Model Code and ABA Model Rules prohibit lawyers from forming partnerships with nonlawyers if any activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law. Plaintiffs claim that this prohibition violates the Sherman Antitrust Act and plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

 At the risk of overusing acronyms, the posture of this case is as follows: defendants ABA, ISBA, CBA, Justices, ARDC, and U.S. Trustee all have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Executive Committee is unrepresented by counsel and has made no motions in this case. For the following reasons the defendants' motions to dismiss must be granted.

 II. DISCUSSION

 In ruling on a motion for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) the court must presume all of the well-pleaded allegations of plaintiffs' complaint to be true. Miree v. DeKalb County, Georgia, 433 U.S. 25, 27 n. 2, 97 S. Ct. 2490, 2492 n. 2, 53 L. Ed. 2d 557 (1977). In addition, the court must view those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. Gomez v. Illinois State Board of Education, 811 F.2d 1030, 1039 (7th Cir. 1987). Dismissal is proper only if it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff[s] can prove no set of facts in support of [their] claim which would entitle [them] to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 102, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957).

 A. ABA Model Code

 Plaintiffs challenge the promulgation, adoption, and enforcement of certain provisions of the ABA Model Code.

 In 1978 the Illinois Supreme Court created the Committee on Professional Responsibility to prepare a draft Code of Professional Responsibility for attorneys in Illinois. Using the ABA Model Code as a blueprint from which to work, the committee prepared a draft Code of Professional ...


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