Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ohio Refines Bar Discipline Default Rules

From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

The  Supreme Court of Ohio has adopted rule amendments today that refine the  existing default judgment process when a lawyer fails to comply with his  professional duty to respond to disciplinary charges.

Recommended by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and  Discipline, the 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. They take effect August 1. The amendments  were published for public comment in March.

Under  the 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.

In addition, changes to the board’s  probable cause process 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.

Click here to view  the amendments.

(Mike Frisch)

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