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State Bar emails suspension notice to every attorney in Arizona

The hearts of thousands of attorneys across Arizona (yes, most have them) skipped a beat or two on Thursday morning, as they read emails from the State Bar that errantly said their licenses to practice law were in jeopardy.

Each member of the State Bar was told that their license was about to be suspended due to not paying dues. Without that license, an attorney needs to pull down their shingle.

"Our records indicate you have not yet filed your 2022 Annual Fee Statement and have missed the February 1 deadline set by the Arizona Supreme Court. See Rule 32(c)(7), Ariz. R. Supt. Ct. To avoid suspension of your license to practice, file your statement and pay your membership fee and late fees now," read the emails, which were sent around 9:30 a.m. and likely had some recipients thinking of a different sort of bar.

An hour later, another email told lawyers that there was a mistake. The mass email incorrectly "went out to the State Bar's entire membership instead of the members who have yet to file or pay. We apologize, we know this disrupted your day and caused undue concern," it said.

The Bar has about 25,300 total members, including inactive members such as retired attorneys, spokesman Joe Hengemuehler told Tucson Sentinel.com.

Of those, 18,938 are still active members, he said, noting that the suspension email was sent to an incorrect list, instead of the smaller set of lawyers who are racking up late fees.

Hengemuehler later took exception to the Sentinel's characterization, that those attorneys may not have to worry about losing their jobs soon, in the sentence that referenced his brief explanation of the mix-up and the number of active members.

"This is irresponsible reporting," he said. "Please retract immediately."

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The State Bar is a nonprofit organization that regulates attorneys in the state, under the supervision of the courts. The Bar is responsible for approving the "character and fitness" of new lawyers, organizing continuing education, and investigates allegations of ethical violations.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Star Bar. If anyone knows where that establishment is, and can vouch for its comity, please let us know.

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