Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered the interim suspension of a lawyer as a result of his arrest for "pointing and presenting a firearm." In most jurisdictions, suspension would not be imposed for an arrest but rather as a result of a finding of guilt. The District of Columbia rule (which I believe is consistent with the vast majority of court rules relating to attorney discipline) provides:
"Upon the filing with this Court of a certified copy of the record or docket entry demonstrating that an attorney has been found guilty of a serious crime or has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to a charge of serious crime, the Court shall enter an order immediately suspending the attorney, notwithstanding the pendency of an appeal, if any, pending final disposition of a disciplinary proceeding to be commenced promptly by the Board. Upon good cause shown, the Court may set aside such order of suspension when it appears in the interest of justice to do so."
The ABA Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement also require proof of a finding of guilt before interim suspension may be imposed.
While I recognize that bar discipline exists to protect the public and uphold the integrity of the legal profession, does suspension based on an arrest violate fundamental notions of the presumption of innocence? (Mike Frisch)