Kelley v. Kelley, — So.3d —-, 2013 WL 5729793 (Fla. 4th DCA October 23, 2013) 

It’s not unusual for family members and other beneficiaries (for example, charities) of Florida estates to reside in multiple other states (or even internationally) and have preexisting relationships with lawyers in their home jurisdictions they want to represent them in the Florida proceeding. Having your non-Florida lawyer represent you in a Florida probate proceeding is no problem, as long as [1] your pro hac vice motion provides all of the information required by Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.510, [2] your non-Florida lawyer is qualified under the rule, and [3] your non-Florida lawyer has associated local counsel who is a member of The Florida Bar.

Saying “NO” to someone’s choice of counsel is a big deal, and it’s warranted only in very limited circumstances. In this case the probate judge denied a pro hac vice motion because the non-Florida lawyer didn’t show a “special background” suitable for probate litigation. That may be true, but it’s not up to the judge to pick who is best suited to be your lawyer, so saith the 4th DCA:

Irreparable harm in denying the motion is two-fold. First, a party is deprived of counsel of choice. Info. Sys. Assocs., Inc. v. Phuture World, Inc., 106 So.3d 982, 984 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013). Second, the denial or revocation of counsel’s admission has future adverse consequences on the attorney. Id.; see also Brooks v. AMP Servs. Ltd., 979 So.2d 435, 437–38 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008).

The trial court’s view that the attorney needed to show a “special background,” suitable to the type of litigation in which the attorney appears, departs from the essential requirements of law. Neither the rule nor case law requires such a showing.

Although the trial court has discretion in determining whether to grant pro hac vice status, that discretion is not unlimited or absolute. See Brooks, 979 So.2d at 439. “[T]he ruling should be based on matters that appear of record before the court.” THI Holdings, LLC v. Shattuck, 93 So.3d 419, 423 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012) (quoting Huff v. State, 569 So.2d 1247, 1249–50 (Fla.1990)). “For example, something which casts doubt upon whether the applicant is actually a member of the bar of another jurisdiction or whether … the applicant is a member in good standing [within his designated jurisdiction] may support a denial of the motion.” Id. (quoting Huff, 569 So.2d at 1250) (emphasis omitted). None of those reasons are apparent in this record.

Consequently, we grant the petition and quash the order that denied the motion to appear pro hac vice.