Disbarred attorneys can be reinstated, usually requiring a court order.
Reinstating a disbarred attorney’s license is a challenging and time-consuming process.
It’s triggered when the attorney’s conduct is deemed detrimental by the bar association.
This is only possible after a waiting period, typically five years or more since the initial license revocation.
What is Disbarment?
When an attorney faces disbarment, the state’s bar association revokes their license as a result of unethical or unlawful behavior.
Occasionally, authorities may temporarily suspend a law license for a specific duration, often referred to as “temporary disbarment,” with the expectation that the attorney can subsequently regain their license.
Full disbarment, however, is typically regarded as permanent and can only be overturned in rare situations.
For the majority of disbarred attorneys, this signifies the need to embark on an entirely new career path.
Suspension vs. Disbarment
State bar associations typically prefer other disciplinary actions over reinstating disbarred attorneys, reserving reinstatement as a last-resort penalty, except in felony cases.
These actions may involve fines, counseling, or suspension, often called “temporary disbarment.”
Suspension and temporary disbarment are similar terms.
In some states, suspensions lasting over six months require passing the bar’s professional responsibility portion before practicing again.
Sometimes, the suspension is court-specific, like a ban from appearing before the state’s supreme court.
Disbarment and Sanctions
Disbarment can stem from felonies or an attorney’s inability to practice due to substance abuse.
Typically, a state bar investigates before permanent disbarment.
However, for serious offenses, disbarment can be instant without prior inquiry.
Disbarred attorneys who still practice may encounter severe penalties, possibly including jail time.
Practicing in Other States
Attorneys often hold licenses in multiple states, and disbarment in one state doesn’t necessarily affect all others. Yet, it can trigger disbarment in other states.
Some disbarred attorneys practice in other states unless they face disbarment there too.
Disbarred attorneys can request a hearing, during which judges may reinstate their license if they demonstrate that disbarment is unwarranted.