In response to last week’s Washington Post Report on Probate Clients and their lawyer Guardians, the legal reform group HALT sent the following letter to the Editor, which appeared in Sunday’s Post [emphasis added]:
A Better Way to Discipline Lawyers
Washingon Post, Sunday, June 22, 2003; Page B06
The June 15-16 front-page series, “Misplaced Trust,” exposed ugly abuses of the District’s most vulnerable residents by unethical lawyers. It also confirmed our findings that the attorney discipline system fails to afford justice to those who are victimized.
Sadly, this pattern of laxity, secrecy and delay is nationwide. According to the most recent American Bar Association statistics, more than 93 percent of attorney discipline cases lead to no punishment, and when discipline is imposed, it usually amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Three fundamental reforms could go a long way toward correcting this situation:
. Replace the failed system of self-regulation — lawyers policing lawyers — with disciplinary panels on which non-lawyers have a majority voice.
. Open the disciplinary system by abolishing gag rules, replacing private
reprimands with public discipline and releasing lawyers’ full disciplinary
. Impose real deadlines — hold a preliminary disciplinary hearing within
90 days, for example, and require the lawyer to attend.
Until the attorney discipline system addresses long-recognized failures and
implements meaningful reforms, unscrupulous attorneys will exploit our most disadvantaged citizens.
JAMES C. TURNER
SUZANNE M. MISHKIN
HALT — An Organization of
Americans for Legal Reform
Meanwhile, I’m still in a fog of post-move fatigue and tasks, so I’ll only state that I agree fully with the HALT analysis and recommendations. For more information see HALT’s Lawyer Accountability Project and Lawyer Discipline Report Card. Our postings on the topic are listed at the top of ethicalEsq?’s Lawyer Discipline resource page. As always, your Comments are welcomed.