In a post last week, our blog began discussing how licensed attorneys accused of ethical misconduct will likely have to stand before the Florida Supreme Court or another disciplinary agency, which will impose sanctions if the alleged misconduct is proven by clear and convincing evidence.
We also discussed how the high court or agency will use Florida's Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions as a model when weighing the appropriateness of disciplinary measures. We'll continue these efforts in today's post by starting to explore some of the sanctions that can be imposed against attorneys.
At the outset, it's important to establish that the sanctions for misconduct apply to all licensed attorneys, not just those actively engaged in the practice of law. In other words, those serving as public officials, corporate officers or even law professors can be held similarly accountable for their transgressions.
The lowest form of discipline, an admonishment is a published statement indicating that while that the conduct of the attorney was improper, his or her ability to practice is not limited.
An admonishment, say the standards, is an appropriate action when the ethical violation results in little to no harm to the client, the profession, the legal system or the public. Indeed, it ensures the public is informed and provides a deterrent effect, while, at the same time, avoiding lasting damage to the reputation of the attorney who is unlikely to reoffend.
A similarly forgiving form of discipline, a public remand is essentially a public proclamation indicating that while that the conduct of the attorney was improper, his or her ability to practice is not limited.
The standards dictate that a public reprimand is proper in those cases where the attorney's ethical violation does not justify more serious measures like suspension or disbarment. If accompanied by published opinions, public reprimands not only serve to protect the public and the integrity of the legal system, but also educate fellow attorneys as to the consequences of violations of ethical standards.
It's important to note that public reprimands are often accompanied by additional conditions. For example, an attorney issued a public reprimand for neglecting cases could also be required to submit to a period of probation whereby his or her client actions are temporarily overseen by third parties.
We'll continue examining some of the sanctions that can be imposed against attorneys in future posts.
Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you believe that you've been victimized by some manner of legal malpractice.