A final look at attorney sanctions in Florida

Earlier this week, we concluded a series of ongoing posts discussing the attorney discipline process here in Florida from the filing of the initial complaint all the way to the hearing before the state Supreme Court.

In today's post, we'll conclude a parallel discussion examining the types of sanctions that the Florida Supreme Court or another agency may elect to impose upon offending attorneys pursuant to the Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions. While we've discussed sanctions on both ends of the spectrum -- admonishment and suspension -- today's post will focus on an intermediate form of punishment: probation. 

Probation

When an attorney is found to have committed some manner of ethical transgression and given probation, it essentially means that while they can continue to practice law, they must do so subject to certain conditions. In other words, their law license is neither suspended nor revoked, but rather restricted.

Some of the more common conditions of probation, which are instituted in the belief that they will protect the public and help ensure the offending attorney meets their ethical obligations, include:

  • Supervision by a member of a local disciplinary committee
  • Filing of semi-annual or quarterly caseload reports
  • Periodic trust account audits
  • Completion of continuing education requirements
  • Participation in a substance abuse program
  • Passing the professional responsibility exam and/or bar exam
  • Periodic medical examinations
  • Practice limitations

According to the Standards, probation can be ordered as part of a larger disciplinary plan against an attorney or as a standalone disciplinary measure. In the case of the latter, it can be accomplished by either admonishment or public reprimand, with public reprimand being preferable in those instances where duties owed to a client, the public or the legal system as a whole were violated.

Probation can also be imposed as a condition of readmission following disbarment or reinstatement following suspension.

Probation is concluded when the attorney files an affidavit of compliance, and the court is satisfied that both the conditions have been met and there is no longer any need for probation.

Should it be demonstrated by the disciplinary authority that an attorney has failed to comply with the conditions of probation, he or she may see the probation extended or the imposition of harsher sanctions.

If you believe that you've been victimized by legal malpractice in some capacity, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about the law and your options for seeking justice.

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