Agency Practice Act

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5 U.S.C. § 500 (2012), originally enacted November 8, 1965, by Pub. L. No. 89-332, 79 Stat. 1281; incorporated into the U.S. Code by Pub. L. No. 90-83, 81 Stat. 195 (September 11, 1967) (with minor stylistic changes); amended by Pub. L. No. 106-113, Div. B, § 1000(a)(9) [Title IV, § 4732(b)(2)], Nov. 29, 1999, 113 Stat. 1536, 1501A-583.

Overview

The Agency Practice Act provides that an attorney in good standing in any state may represent persons before federal agencies. An agency may require an attorney to file a written declaration of current qualification and to state that he is authorized to represent the particular person before the agency. Similarly, a duly qualified certified public accountant may represent persons before the Internal Revenue Service. The Act was intended to prohibit agency established admission requirements for licensed attorneys and special enrollment requirements for CPAs. (Note: The Patent and Trademark Office is exempted from the Act. ) The Act expressly neither grants nor denies other persons the right to practice before an agency, nor does it authorize or limit an agency’s right to discipline or disbar persons practicing before it.

In 1982, the Administrative Conference adopted a statement on discipline of attorneys practicing before federal agencies. After studying agency concerns and existing disciplinary procedures, the Conference concluded that any current problems concerning attorney discipline before federal agencies were not of such magnitude or so widespread as to require legislative action or the adoption of uniform federal standards.

Legislative History

In 1957 the Department of Justice recommended discontinuing the practice of many agencies that required attorneys to apply for agency acceptance as practitioners. Several bills were introduced in the early 1960s to abolish agency admission requirements. By 1965, few agencies retained admission requirements, and only the Treasury Department and the Patent Office objected to discontinuing them. (See House Judiciary Committee Report, cited below.) Pub. L. No. 89-332 was enacted in 1965 with the passage of S. 1758.

In 1999, the Act was amended to substitute “Patent and Trademark Office” for “Patent Office.”

Source Note

The House report on S. 1758 is reprinted in U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News. Professor Michael Cox’s 1982 report to the Administrative Conference discusses federal agency attorney discipline and contains an extensive bibliography.

Also relevant is section 9 (“Use of Nonattorneys”) of the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act.

Bibliography

Legislative History and Congressional Documents

  • Report to Accompany S. 1758, S. Rep. No. 755, 89th Cong. (1965).
  • Report to Accompany S. 1758, H.R. Rep. No. 1141, 89th Cong. (1965).

ACUS Documents

Books and Articles

  • Craig H. Allen, Attorney Ethics and Agency Practice: Representing Clients in Coast Guard Marine Casualty Investigations, 22 J. Mar. L. & Com. 225 (1991).
  • American Bar Association, Report to the House of Delegates on Federal Agency Attorney Discipline (August 1982).
  • Michael P. Cox, Regulation of Attorneys Practicing Before Federal Agencies, 34 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 173 (1984).
  • Roberta S. Karmel, Rule 2(e)—A Reprise, 210 N.Y .L.J. 3 (1993).
  • Melanie B. Leslie, Government Officials as Attorneys and Clients: Why Privilege the Privileged?, 77 Ind. L.J. 469 (2002).
  • Nicholas M. Wenner, Comment, Determining Secondary Liability under Securities Laws: Attorney Beware!, 11 Hamline L. Rev. 61 (1988).

Agency Regulations

Statutory Provisions

Agency Practice Act, 5 U.S.C. § 500 (2012).