Chief Justice Warren E. Burger yesterday tried to exclude a California lawyer accused of filing frivolous lawsuits from membership in the Supreme Court Bar.
The lawyer, Christopher A. Brose, was admitted after no other justice joined Burger in his effort.
Admission to the Supreme Court Bar automatically entitles a lawyer to practice before the justices. Apart from that, it is a largely symbolic act.
Brose applied in order to file a petition on behalf of a client, Michael Wood, who has filed 36 cases in 31 federal districts over the past decade in a dispute over use of photographs he took in 1969.
Burger said that Brose knew of the multiple cases when he agreed to represent Wood. "By advocating yet another appeal of a trial court's dismissal of Wood's frivolous claims," Burger wrote, "Brose joined and perpetuated an abuse of the judicial process."
Burger said that as a result of Brose's representation in one of Wood's suits, the lawyer recently was assessed $10,000 in court costs for "unreasonably and vexatiously multiplying proceedings" in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Admission to this court's bar is not a matter of right," Burger wrote yesterday in a dissent to Brose's admission. "On the basis of the record before the court, Brose does not meet the admission standard of 'good . . . professional character,' " Burger wrote.
All of the justices have complained recently about the heavy workload of the federal courts. Last week, the concern of some of them reached new heights when they assessed $500 in costs against a college student who they said was filing frivolous claims.
The chief justice has also objected periodically to admission to the bar of people who have been disciplined or face disciplinary action for alleged unprofessional practices.
Burger said that to grant Brose's application "could be construed fairly as an implicit blessing" on his actions.