“Disbarred—but Not Barred from Work”

by Walter Olson on March 2, 2009

Disbarment isn’t always as severe a punishment as it may sound; some states “allow disbarred or suspended attorneys to work as paralegals or law clerks handling legal research or drafting documents under the supervision of an attorney.” One rationale is to ease the path for reinstatement of a lawyer who reforms and lives down past misconduct, but the practice opens the door to evasion, as in a Colorado case in which the disbarred attorney ostensibly turned his law firm over to associates and then was hired by them: “The reality was that the disbarred attorney was still running the firm,” a regulatory official says. [ABA Journal, June 2007 but unnoted here until now]

{ 5 comments }

1 SmartGuy 03.02.09 at 4:09 am

The bar associations simply do not protect consumers from these career criminals.

Instead we get these sham disbarments. Professional regulation must be removed the bar associations and placed into state consumer control agencies, like any other business.

2 Ebn-Ozn 03.02.09 at 8:04 am

State consumer control agencies…what a brilliant idea. Perhaps the government can provide the same quality of oversight on “sham disbarments” as the SEC provided over Bernie Madoff.

3 Evil Esquire 03.02.09 at 5:13 pm

some bar associations perform lawyer regulation but in some states it’s the direct responsibility of their supreme courts. i don’t claim to have an answer… corruption is pervasive in every corner of our legal system. i do believe that federalization of the judicial system will cut costs and enable better oversight but that’s a pipe dream. lawyers like the system as it is and they are enormous contributors to their politician brethren– our sitting president for instance. the public needs to bring pressure to bear on regulators of attorney conduct and law enforcement authorities. the public needs to be educated to the problem. this site as well as my site: http://www.evilesq.com are good first steps.

4 Nancy Swan 03.03.09 at 4:05 pm

This article spells out how many privileges the brethren are given. Zach Scruggs was convicted of felony for bribing judges, then sentenced to 14 months in a federal prison, where he has been for the last few months. Zach Scruggs, and his father zillionnaire Dickie Scruggs who was also convicted of judicial bribery, were disbarred. But a few days ago Zach Scruggs was seen having lunch with his family in Oxford square. Apparently he found a job as well, as an “office assistant.” In a law firm or related business??? Some punishment that was.
http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009903020338

Like Walter Olson says, “The reality was that the disbarred attorney was still running the firm,”

5 Nancy Swan 03.04.09 at 12:43 pm

Disbarment of lawyers needs more publicity. So much of it is shrouded in secrecy and sealed records. Unfortunately, disbarment is also punishment for lawyers who are whistle blowers in judicial misconduct and corruption cases. Some are fighting back. http://www.popular4people.org/Association_Members.html

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