Arizona Government Attorneys

Rule 38(g) of the Arizona Supreme Court Rules allows attorneys employed by funded indigent defense offices to be specially admitted for the limited purpose of providing representation to appointed clients.

Eligibility, Practice, and Restrictions
Attorneys must be admitted to the active practice of law in any jurisdiction for at least two years and be employed full-time by a state or county funded indigent defense office located in a county with a population of less than 500,000 people. The “active practice of law” means an attorney engaged in the practice of law, which includes, but is not limited to, private practice, house counsel, public employment, or academic employment.

Attorneys cannot perform legal services within Arizona except for clients of the approved funded indigent defense office where employed. Attorneys cannot accept any compensation for such services except the salary provided by the office. Part-time employment is not permitted under the rules.

An attorney who is an active member of the Arizona Bar must supervise attorneys who have been practicing in Arizona for less than two years. The supervising attorney must be employed full time by the approved funded indigent defense office and will act as a supervisory attorney pursuant to Rule 42 Arizona Supreme Court Rules, ER 5.1.

Attorneys must comply with the Mandatory CLE requirements.

Funded Indigent Defense Office
A “funded indigent defense office” is a governmental department, organization, or other entity formed under the authority of A.R.S. § 11-581 et. seq. The office must employ at least one Arizona attorney.

The office is required to file a petition with the Chief Bar Counsel of the Arizona Bar in order to obtain approval from the Arizona Supreme Court. The petition includes:

  • A description of the structure of the organization, including a certification that the organization maintains a supervisory structure and ration in line with acceptable defense standards, the source of which must be identified.
  • A copy of the last annual report prepared pursuant to A.R.S. § 11-584(A)(3). An affirmation that, during any time in which the office has an attorney employed under this rule, the office will file a copy of the annual report with the Supreme Court at the same time as it files the report with the entities designated in A.R.S. § 11-584(A)(3).
  • A certification that the office complies with ethical workload limits, ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 06-441 (2006), American Council of Chief Defenders/National Legal Aid and Defender Association Ethics Opinion 03-01 (April 2003), and Arizona Bar Ethics Opinion 90-10, such certification to include an affirmation that the office has a means of reviewing caseload/workload of assigned attorneys.
  • A description of the source of major funds used by the office.
  • The type of representation the office provides under A.R.S. § 11-584(A).
  • The names of all members of the Arizona Bar who are employed by the office or who regularly perform legal work for the office.
  • A certification that all attorneys employed by the office under this rule receive pay and benefits commensurate with other regularly licensed attorneys in the office.

Attorneys are required to file with the Clerk of the Arizona Supreme Court an application that includes:

  • A certificate that the applicant is presently licensed to practice law, the applicant has fulfilled the requirements of active bar members for at least two years preceding the date of the application, and the applicant has not been disciplined for professional misconduct by the bar of the highest court of the state, territory, or the district during the past five years, or during the time of licensure, whichever is greater.
  • Employer Statement. A statement signed by an authorized representative of the approved legal services organization that the attorney is employed by the organization.
  • A sworn statement signed by the applicant that he or she:
    • Has read and is familiar with the Rules of the Supreme Court and the applicable Arizona statutes relative to attorney conduct, and the attorney will abide by those provisions.
    • Submits to the jurisdiction of the Arizona Supreme Court for disciplinary purposes, as defined by the Arizona Supreme Court Rules
    • Has not been disciplined by the Bar or courts of any jurisdiction during the past 5 years, or during the applicant’s licensure, whichever is greater.

Authorization expires if one of the following occurs, whichever comes first:

  • The applicant no longer works for the approved indigent defense office.
  • The applicant is regularly admitted to practice law in Arizona; or
  • Two years from the date of the order authorizing the applicant to practice under the rules.

The authorization also terminates if the indigent defense office no longer employs the attorney. In such cases, the authorized representative is required to file a notification of termination with the Clerk of the Arizona Supreme Court and the Arizona Bar specifying the date the employment terminated. The notification must be sent within 10 days of the termination. If the attorney leaves one indigent defense office for another, the attorney must file a notification of new employment. The time limits for expiration of licensure continue to run from the original order. Applicants may not be authorized more than once under the indigent defense office rule.