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Professional Discipline

Reforming the Attorney Discipline Process

The City Bar has long advocated that Section 90 of the Judiciary Law be amended to allow public access to attorney discipline proceedings once a disciplinary committee has filed formal charges against an attorney.

Section 90(10) of the Judiciary Law provides that attorney disciplinary files must remain private and confidential until after a judicial determination that public discipline is warranted, unless the Appellate Division, for cause shown, determines otherwise. It is one of the most restrictive attorney discipline confidentiality provisions in the United States.

The City Bar believes that an earlier opening of the attorney discipline process will serve the interests of both the members of the bar and the general public. Attorneys will not be injured when baseless, frivolous or vindictive complaints are filed against them, as such complaints will be disposed of long before the point of public access. On the other hand, public suspicion and distrust about attorneys and about the process will be alleviated; consumers will be given valuable decision-making information; and the attorney discipline process will, hopefully, become more efficient and effective, as a result of the increased scrutiny.

We also support the enactment of a seven-year statute of limitations for the commencement of such disciplinary proceedings. Currently, there is no statute of limitations for such proceedings. Specifically, the City Bar supports legislation that would provide that disciplinary charges may not be brought based on attorney misconduct that occurred prior to the longer of: (1) seven years after a complaint has been filed with a disciplinary committee, or (2) two years following the date on which a disciplinary committee received actual notice of the attorney’s conviction of a felony or of a crime involving moral turpitude. If an attorney intentionally misleads a client or a disciplinary committee as to the circumstances constituting the misconduct, however, charges may be brought within seven years after the last act of deception.

 

For a full list of committee reports, click here.