Tennessee Refuses to Grant Canadian Attorney Permission to Practice Law in the State

Tennessee Refuses to Grant Canadian Attorney Permission to Practice Law in the State

The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners has denied an attorney’s request to transfer her bar score to the State of Tennessee.

In 2021, Violaine Panasci relocated to Nashville after being hired by Chattanooga-based Rockridge Venture Law. Panasci earned a law degree from the University of Ottawa in Canada and an LL.M. degree from Pace University in New York, where she passed the bar and was licensed to practice.

The Tennessee Board refused to grant Panasci permission to practice law in the state because it said her Canadian education was not “substantially equivalent” to an American legal education.

“There is no serious dispute in this case about whether I am qualified to practice law in Tennessee,” Panasci said. “My credentials speak for themselves. … The Board should be reprimanded for its overly burdensome and arbitrary application of a state occupational licensing law in a way that impedes job creation and slows economic growth, not to mention the state resources that have been wasted on this case alone.”

The Goldwater Institute, in conjunction with the Beacon Center of Tennessee and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, filed a brief in the Tennessee Supreme Court supporting Panasci’s admission citing the Tennessee Constitution and the state’s Right to Earn a Living Act.

“Ensuring that lawyers are well educated is an important consideration. But the state cannot do so in a way that arbitrarily excludes individuals who received their legal education in a foreign country. For instance, it cannot require simple equivalency of credit hours, like it did with Violaine,” said The Goldwater Institute. “Instead, the state must make an individualized determination that weighs all of an applicant’s credentials and considers the requirements of the state’s Constitution and its Right to Earn a Living Act.”


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