California Bar Journal
CBJ - April 2009 #01.
Permanent disbarment rule sent to Supreme Court - again
California Bar Journal April 2009 Permanent disbarment rule sent to Supreme Court - againBy Nancy McCarthyStaff WriterAttorneys who have been disbarred twice will lose their license permanently if the Supreme Court approves a proposal from the State Bar Board of Governors. A stronger proposal, approved by the board in 2006 that would have resulted in permanent disbarment for lawyers who commit particularly egregious misconduct, was dropped. But the board added a requirement that lawyers who seek reinstatement after disbarment or resignation must pass the attorneys' bar exam.
The measures, which will amend the rules of court and the rules of procedure, were adopted unanimously last month with little discussion.
When the bar sought comment about the proposals, it received only four comments; two offered support, a third expressed support for permanent disbarment and said the new proposals did not go far enough, and the fourth was opposed to permanent disbarment.
The idea of permanently barring the door to the legal profession surfaced in 2005, after Pacific Palisades attorney Ronald Silverton was disbarred a second time. Six other lawyers have been disbarred twice.
At that time, the high court asked the bar to revisit a 1996 permanent disbarment proposal that the court had ordered suspended. The board then approved a list of seven guidelines that could result in the permanent loss of a lawyer's license, including stealing client funds, conviction of a crime of public malfeasance, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and engaging in conduct "that is so egregious that the member should be permanently disbarred."
It also recommended that attorneys seeking reinstatement pass the attorneys' exam. A proposal to extend the waiting period for reinstatement from five years to seven years was dropped.
Last year, the Supreme Court indicated it favored a narrower rule and the proposal was scaled back significantly.
Chief Trial Counsel Scott Drexel, a longtime proponent of permanent disbarment, said the requirement to pass the attorneys' exam offers a more objective standard for reinstatement than currently exists. Attorneys seeking to regain their license after disbarment or resignation with charges pending need only...