March 6, 2012
Bar Discipline Default Judgment Changes Proposed
The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports that the court is considering changes to the disciplinary system:
The Supreme Court of Ohio announced proposed rule amendments today to refine the existing default judgment process when a lawyer fails to comply with his professional duty to respond to disciplinary charges. Written comments on the proposed amendments will be accepted until April 3.
Recommended by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline, the proposed changes are intended to meet two goals:
- to encourage respondents to participate in the disciplinary process and do so more promptly.
- to protect the public from a lawyer who has ignored his or her duty to cooperate with the disciplinary authorities or is attempting to manipulate or delay the process while continuing to practice law.
The amendments to the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio concern Rule 5 Disciplinary Procedure and new Section 6a Default; Interim Default Suspension.
Under the proposed amendments, the secretary to the board would be required to certify the respondent’s default to the Ohio Supreme Court “within a reasonable period of time after the date the answer was due.” The court would have the authority to order an interim default suspension that would remain in effect for at least six months. The interim suspension could be lifted if the respondent files a motion for leave to answer the formal complaint and if the court remands the matter to the board for hearing. The entity bringing the misconduct charges also could initiate default disbarment proceedings during the first six-month period if it believes the respondent’s misconduct is so serious as to merit the permanent loss of his or her license to practice law.
If no motions are filed within six months, the interim default suspension would be converted to an indefinite suspension that would prevent the lawyer from seeking reinstatement to the practice of law for a minimum of two years.
Richard A. Dove, secretary to the board, said the board “believes the proposed amendments address the stated goals while promoting finality in disciplinary proceedings and protecting the due process rights of attorneys accused of misconduct. Moreover, the board believes the proposed amendments comport more closely to the manner in which other states handle disciplinary actions where the respondent is in default.”
The board also recommended changes to its probable cause process to allow more flexibility in reviewing and certifying complaints. Specifically, probable cause panels would meet between full board meetings and eliminate delays between when complaints are filed and certified.
View the text of the proposed amendments.
Comments should be submitted in writing to:
Rick Dove, Secretary
Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline
65 S. Front St., Fifth Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
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