These Rules establish standards for the continuing legal education (CLE) required of all persons licensed to practice law in the State of Montana. It is of primary importance to the members of the State Bar of Montana and to the public that attorneys continue their legal education throughout their active practice of law.
A. Membership, Appointment, and Terms.
The Commission consists of nine Commissioners: six members admitted to practice law in the State of Montana, and three residents of the State not admitted to the practice of law. The State Bar shall nominate and the Court shall appoint Commissioners for three‑year terms. Each yearly class shall include two lawyers and one layperson. In addition, one member of the Montana Supreme Court shall serve as an ex-officio member of the Commission.
The member has the burden to satisfy and document compliance with the requirements of these Rules.
A. Active Member Minimum MCLE Requirements.
Active Members must earn a minimum of 15 credit hours of approved CLE each reporting year. Of those 15 credit hours, the member must earn at least 10 credit hours by attending interactive seminars as defined in Rule 9. The member may not earn more than 5 credit hours through “other methods” as defined in Rule 9.
B. Professional Fitness and Integrity Requirements.
Of the 15 credit hours of CLE required each reporting year, at least 2 credit hours must be in Professional Fitness and Integrity activities. These activities must meet the standards set out in Rule 8B and may be in any or all of the following 3 content areas:
C. Carry-over Credits.
D. “Comity-Plus” Compliance for Members in Other States and Jurisdictions.
A member who has an active license to practice law in another state or jurisdiction where the member resides (“Resident Jurisdiction”) may transfer the number of credits required to meet MCLE requirements of that state or jurisdiction. In order to meet its obligations to the public and the legal profession, the Commission requires the member to complete additional activities, if needed, to satisfy Montana’s standards for the total number of credits, and/or the total number of Professional Fitness and Integrity credits, required for CLE compliance.
A. Emeritus Member CLE Requirement.
B. Inactive Member CLE Exemption.
An Inactive Member is exempt from the CLE requirements of these Rules.
C. Legislator Member and Governor CLE Exemption.
A Legislator Member or the Governor of the State of Montana is exempt from the CLE requirements of these Rules during his or her term of office as a member of the Montana House of Representatives, as a member of the Montana Senate, or as the Governor.
D. Judiciary Member CLE Exemption.
A full-time judge or retired judge eligible for temporary judicial assignment and not engaged in the practice of law is exempt from the CLE requirements of these Rules.
A full-time judge is an elected or appointed member of the Judiciary who devotes his or her full-time professional activity to his or her position as a judge. The Judiciary includes Montana Supreme Court justices, Montana district court judges, tribal judges, Montana water court judges, Montana workers’ compensation judge, Montana justices of the peace, Montana city judges, Montana municipal judges, Montana full-time standing masters, federal administrative law judges, U.S. circuit court judges, U.S. district court judges, U.S. magistrates, and U.S. bankruptcy judges.
E. Other Exemptions.
The Commission may grant exemptions as follows:
If an Active Member requests to become an Inactive Member after the Commission has notified the Court of noncompliance, the Commission may waive the CLE requirements for the previous year.
The Commission may grant an extension of time for the reporting requirement of Rule 7, upon a finding by the Commission of special circumstances unique to that member constituting undue hardship.
On or before April 15 of each year, the Commission shall provide each Active Member, except those granted an exemption under Rule 6, a preliminary report of all CLE credits earned by that member in the previous reporting year. If the member finds the preliminary report to be inaccurate or incomplete, the member shall provide corrections in writing. The preliminary transcript, including Commission-approved corrections, if any, will be deemed the official transcript on June 1.
The Commission shall require payment of a fee not to exceed $45.00 to defray the cost of maintaining records and enforcing the Rules. The member shall submit the prescribed fee together with the Supreme Court License Tax and the State Bar of Montana Membership Dues submitted by each member.
C. Noncompliance Fees.
Failure to pay the prescribed fee constitutes noncompliance under Rule 13. In addition to the filing fee prescribed in Rule 3B(2)(d), and any applicable comity-plus compliance fee in accordance with Rule 5D, members deemed noncompliant after May 15 shall be assessed an additional fee. Non-compliance after July 1 shall be governed by Rule 13.
D. Failure to Respond.
A member’s failure to respond in a timely manner shall constitute noncompliance under Rule 13.
A. Credit Hours.
The Commission shall designate the number of credit hours to be earned by participation in or teaching of approved CLE activities.
Credit shall be earned on the basis of one credit hour for each 60 minutes actually spent by a member in attendance at an approved activity or in preparation for and teaching of an approved activity. Credit will not be earned for time spent in introductory remarks, coffee and luncheon breaks, or business meetings. Further, credit will not be earned for speeches presented at, or attendance at, luncheons or banquets. Repetition of an activity does not qualify for credit.
B. Accreditation and Accreditation Standards - General.
The Commission may approve CLE activities when consistent with these Rules. The following standards govern the approval of a CLE activity:
The Commission will accredit interactive activities, as defined in Rule 9, held in a state or jurisdiction other than Montana only if the Commission determines the activity meets the standards set out in Rule 8B. A member seeking accreditation under this Rule must provide adequate documentation to establish that the activity meets the standards of Rule 8B. At a minimum, such documentation includes the accreditation application, a timed agenda, and a description of the activity’s content. The Commission may reject accreditation of any activity, or a portion of any activity, that it concludes does not meet the standards of Rule 8B or for which the member has not provided adequate documentation.
An attorney or sponsoring agency disagreeing with a determination of the Commission, the Accreditation Committee, or the MCLE Administrator, other than the noncompliance provisions of Rule 13, shall submit his or her statement, together with supporting data, to the Commission. The Commission shall consider the matter at its next regular meeting. The Commission shall send written notice to the sponsoring agency or attorney advising of the date, time, and location of the meeting and advise that he or she has the right to appear at the meeting and present any evidence on his or her behalf. Consideration of the matter is not an adversarial or contested proceeding, and formal rules of evidence shall not apply. The Commission shall determine the matter by majority vote of those present and its decision shall be final.
A. Notice of Noncompliance.
The Commission shall, by June 1 of each year, send a written notice of noncompliance to each member who has not fulfilled the CLE requirements for the previous year as documented by the official report compiled through the procedure outlined in Rule 7. The notice of noncompliance shall describe the nature of the noncompliance and shall state that, unless the member files an acceptable update to the official report with the Commission by July 1 of that year showing that the noncompliance has been corrected and pays the appropriate fees, the Commission will direct the State Bar of Montana to transfer the member to inactive status until the noncompliance is corrected and the fees required by Rule 7 are paid.
B. Notice of Transfer.
No later than ten business days after July 1, the Commission shall furnish the names of the members and the effective date of their transfers to inactive status to the named members, to the Montana Supreme Court, to the Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, to the Clerks of the District Courts of the State of Montana with the request that they provide a copy to the district judges in their judicial districts, to the Clerk of the Federal District Court of the District of Montana with a request that the Clerk provide a copy to the United States District Judges in Montana, and to the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit.
C. Transfer Not Punishment.
The transfer of a member to inactive status pursuant to this Rule shall not be deemed a punishment or disciplinary action for purposes of the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct or the Montana Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement.
D. Fee for Reinstatement.
A member transferred to inactive status pursuant to this Rule shall apply for reinstatement as provided in Article I, Section 3(e), of the Bylaws of the State Bar of Montana and shall pay to the State Bar of Montana a fee equal to the greater of $200.00 or the usual and customary fee charged by the State Bar of Montana for transferring a member from inactive to active status.
This Rule applies to a member transferred to inactive status in accordance with Rule 13 or suspended from the practice of law who applies for reinstatement to active status. The Court may reinstate the member upon the payment of all fees required by the Commission and certification by the Commission that the member has completed the minimum CLE requirements. The member shall have completed 15 hours of approved CLE for each 12‑month period the member was on inactive status or suspended from the practice of law. The total CLE requirements under all of the foregoing shall not exceed 30 hours. The Commission may consider hours of approved CLE that the member has completed within 24 months prior to the application for reinstatement.
This Rule applies to a member who voluntarily switched from active to inactive status or who resigned membership in the State Bar and who applies for reinstatement to active status. Within six months of re-admission to active status by the Court, the member shall complete 15 hours of approved CLE for each 12-month period of inactive or resigned status, not to exceed a total of 30 hours. The Commission may consider hours of approved CLE which the member has completed within 24 months prior to the application for reinstatement to active status.
Members who believe their occupations during inactive or resigned status are sufficient to warrant readmission to active status without being required to make up CLE credits may submit petitions to the Court for such re-admission setting forth the grounds for re‑admission.
If an Active Member requests to become an Inactive Member, the CLE requirements may be waived for the preceding year.
Unless otherwise directed by the Supreme Court or these Rules, the files, records and proceedings of the Commission, as they relate to or arise out of any failure of any member to satisfy the requirements of these Rules, are confidential and shall not be disclosed, except in furtherance of the duties of the Commission, upon the request of the Commission on Practice, or the member affected, or as introduced into evidence or otherwise produced in proceedings under these Rules. After the Commission directs the State Bar of Montana to transfer a member to inactive status, the matter becomes one of public record and is no longer confidential.