Tag Archives | Due Process

New York’s Attorney Discipline System: How Much ‘Process’ Is ‘Due’?

This article concerns the due process rights of New York lawyers facing disciplinary charges. It highlights the historical constitutional development of due process rights in attorney discipline cases, briefly focuses on the relatively few precedents that address procedural due process in New York’s uniquely disjointed lawyer disciplinary system, and then describes the ABA’s Model Rules […]

Reprinted with permission from the March1, 2010 edition of the New York Law Journal ©2010 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For information, contact 877-257-3382 – reprints@alm.com or visit www.almreprints.com.

  1. 22 U.S. 529 (1824).
  1. 71 U.S. 333 (1866).
  1. 74 U.S. 364 (1868).
  1. Id. at 375.
  1. 390 U.S. 544 (1968).
  1. Id. at 551.
  1. 385 U.S. 511 (1967).
  1. 501 U.S. 1030 (1991).
  1. In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) and its progeny, the U.S. Supreme Court espoused a strong federal policy against federal court interference with pending state judicial proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. The basis for “Younger abstention” is the notion of “comity,” which includes “a proper respect for state functions.” Id. at 44. Accordingly, where vital state interests are involved, a federal court should abstain “unless state law clearly bars the interposition of the constitutional claims.” Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 426 (1975). In Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423 (1982), the Supreme Court applied “Younger abstention” to bar disciplinary proceedings. In brief, federal courts will generally abstain from stopping a state disciplinary proceeding after it has begun. Moreover, the “Rooker-Feldman” doctrine, named for two Supreme Court cases interpreting federal subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1257, limits review of state disciplinary proceedings, once they are over, to the U.S. Supreme Court through a petition for a writ of certiorari.
  1. 24 N.Y.2d 150 (1969) (affirming the principle in an administrative proceeding).
  1. 23 N.Y.2d 368 (1968).
  1. Id. at 384.
  1. 63 N.Y.2d 331 (1984).
  1. Id. at 339.
  1. 59 N.Y.2d 549 (1983).
  1. 67 N.Y.2d 440 (1986).
  1. Id. at 201-202.
  1. Id. at 220.
  1. In the 1960s, an American Bar Association commission chaired by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark conducted a comprehensive study of bar discipline systems throughout the United States. The Clark Commission issued a scathing report in 1970, which described the state of lawyer discipline as a “scandalous” process. See Special Comm. on Evaluation of Disciplinary Enforcement, American Bar Ass’n, Problems and Recommendations in Disciplinary Enforcement 1 (1970). The Clark Commission’s findings became a catalyst for action. By the mid-1970s, many state courts around the country assumed greater responsibility for managing their disciplinary processes and hired professional lawyers and investigators to staff disciplinary agencies. The ABA’s House of Delegates adopted the Model Enforcement Rules in August 1989, and amended them in 1993, 1996, 1999, and 2002.
  1. The ABA Model Enforcement Rules are available at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/resources/lawyer_ethics_regulation/model_rules_for_lawyer_disciplinary_enforcement.html.
  1. See, e.g., Mark J. Fucile, “Giving Lawyers Their Due: Due Process Defenses in Disciplinary Proceedings,” 20 No. 4 Prof. Law. 28 (2011); Mary M. Devlin, “The Development of Attorney Disciplinary Procedures in the United States,” 2008 Prof. Law. 359 (2008); Wilburn Brewer, Jr., “Due Process in Lawyer Disciplinary Cases: From the Cradle to the Grave,” 42 S.C. L. Rev. 925 (1991).

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