September 15, 2008
A Thought on Permanent Disbarment in the Bank Robbery Case
Posted by Alan Childress
Mike, who posted this morning on this interesting Louisiana bar discipline recommendation for a convicted bank robber, has heard me express before in detail that permanent disbarment is an abdication of future responsibility. Why decide now, and forever, that no set of circumstances and no amount of proof of change allows reentry into the profession? Permanent disbarment has public relations value now, sounding tougher than "just disbarment," but I know of no statistical rash of the recidivist-disbarred.
Here is a crime not in the practice of law--related of course and worthy of disbarment--but not related to clients. I would hope permanent disbarment would at least be reserved for crimes most related to practice. Last week Mike reported zero bar discipline in Michigan for a drunk driver because it was his "private life." (And in Louisiana merely a suspension for repeated drunk driving and attacking the ex's car.)
Hmm. This robbery is not just as much his personal life? The Michigan drunk driver's bar found, you will recall, "no evidence whatsoever regarding his competence to practice law or the quality of the services rendered to his clients." Same could be said for bank robbery, though I agree it should get more than zero discipline and disbarment is appropriate. But note the huge disparity in how the bar treats these two crimes: zero discipline versus never again, even though neither involved clients or law practice.
They seem to be both crimes that threaten human life recklessly. I am more scared of drunk drivers than bank robbers, personally, because there are a lot more of them and society goes easy on them. And I am not scared that future bar committees cannot competently decide on an application for reinstatement. Likely the answer will be "no" at that time, but can we say now that it will be forever, no matter what? Even after he has served his time?
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