In a series of ongoing posts, we’ve been exploring more about the disciplinary process for attorneys accused of some manner of ethical misconduct. To recap, they will likely be called before the Florida Supreme Court or another agency, which may elect to impose sanctions pursuant to the Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions.
Having discussed some of the more lenient forms of discipline — admonishment and public reprimand — we’ll shift gears in today’s post by focusing on one of the more serious punishments for ethical transgressions: suspension.
When a attorney is suspended, he or she is removed from the practice of law for the timeframe designated by the sanctioning body. In other words, they may not do anything in an attorney capacity.
The Standard dictates that when the attorney is suspended for 90 days or less, he or she will not be required to provide clear and convincing evidence of their rehabilitation, compliance with other sanctions and/or fitness to practice law. In addition, it declares that re-passage of the bar examination is not required.
Those attorneys who fall outside of this 90-day window, however, will need to provide proof of this rehabilitation, and may be required to re-pass a portion or the entirety of the bar exam.
Curiously, the commentary to the Standard dictates that while the duration of the suspension is ultimately left to sanctioning body, the preferable timeframe is at least six months.
This, it reasons, is necessary to ensure that the attorney is not only adequately rehabilitated and, by extension, that the is public protected, but also that his or her clients are protected as opposed to just being merely inconvenienced.
As for the maximum amount of time that an attorney may have their license suspended, the Standard calls for a maximum of three years. The commentary asserts that if the conduct in question would seem to merit a longer suspension, then the more appropriate remedy might be disbarment — which we’ll examine in our final post on this topic.
If you believe that you’ve been victimized by some manner of legal malpractice, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about the law and your options.