Friday, October 19, 2007

A Wasted Opportunity

The comment period for proposed revisions to the rules governing lawyer discipline in the District of Columbia expires today. Here is a link to the court's notice, with a summary of the key provisions.

It may come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am no fan of many of the recommendations or the process that led to the proposals. Below is an excerpt from my letter to the D. C. Court of Appeals:

"My views on the dysfunctional nature of our present system are well known...While I appreciate the efforts of the committee and court to reform the system, I believe the opportunity to make the system fairer and faster has been wasted. It is unlikely that another opportunity for meaningful reform will be presented to my generation of members of the District of Columbia Bar. To me, the wasted opportunity is more than unfortunate; it is tragic.

I also believe that the Court, which is responsible for the regulation of its Bar, should be aware that the process that produced this report was deeply flawed. This committee conducted its work behind closed doors without any attempt to reach a broad range of views from interested and well-informed persons. Rather, a hand-selected group of bar insiders with a vested interest in the status quo rendered a report that fails to meaningfully address the systemic failures of the disciplinary system, most notably the undeniable fact that serious cases of misconduct routinely take years- sometimes over a decade- to resolve. The committee held a single perfunctory public hearing after it had completed the report and did not change a comma after several people (myself included) raised serious concerns, particularly about the consent disposition proposal. It is a cruel irony that this report sacrifices any possibility of efficiency in the name of "transparency" when its own processes were anything but open to any public input. Meaningful reform will only come when the Court authorizes a study of the system that brings together a full range of informed views."

This is what happens when the foxes not only guard the henhouse but are placed in charge of henhouse construction.(Mike Frisch)

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