New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

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Court Responds To NJSBA Reinstatement Of Disbarred Attorneys Proposal With New Category Of Discipline

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The New Jersey Supreme Court today adopted a Rule creating a new category of discipline called “indeterminate suspensions” after consideration of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s (NJSBA) March 23, 2001 Report and Recommendations on the Reinstatement of Disbarred Attorneys. While the Court did not accept the association’s proposal that it permit the reinstatement of disbarred attorneys, it established the new category for use in matters that might otherwise have resulted in disbarment. The Rule also codifies the categories of final discipline, together with conditions that may be imposed, and will take effect on September 3, 2002.

In a letter communicating its decision to the bar association, the court noted “the Bar’s efforts were salutary and helped to focus the Court’s discussions on the subject.”

“We thank the Court for its responsiveness to our proposal and are happy that we were able to spark the Justices on this important issue,” said NJSBA President Richard J. Badolato. “This new category of discipline provided by the Court Rule, indeterminate suspensions, is between disbarment and suspension and it satisfies our concern regarding lawyers who have committed serious offenses, but who nevertheless may not deserve disbarment due to mitigating factors and a likelihood that they can be rehabilitated.”

The NJSBA report states that New Jersey is one of only ten states that impose permanent disbarment, and that permanent disbarment discounts any possibility for character reform and rehabilitation. In its Administrative Determination, the Court “recognizes that disciplinary cases often involve subtle shadings of proof and judgments regarding the discipline to be imposed. The category [indeterminate suspensions] is intended to accommodate disciplinary cases that lie on the cusp of disbarment.”

“The Rule also includes stringent conditions that must be met, so there is no question that an attorney’s reinstatement will not occur unless the Court is satisfied that the attorney is fully able to perform his or her duties without being a danger to the public,” said Badolato.

Under the new Rule 1:20-15A (2), an indeterminate suspension shall prohibit an attorney from seeking reinstatement for a minimum of five years. It further provides five conditions to be used either as a part of a sanction imposed or as a condition to reinstatement. The conditions include financial controls, restrictions on the ability to practice, substance abuse control, mental health treatment and counseling, taking and passing the New Jersey Bar Examination and meeting other admission qualifications, and other conditions that may be deemed appropriate in light of the circumstances presented, including probation or a suspended suspension.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice.