What Happens When a Lawyer Is Sanctioned?

Mar 18, 2019 | Blog

As a bar defense attorney, Megan helps lawyers facing a California State Bar investigation. One of the most common questions asked is: what happens when a lawyer is sanctioned? Here’s what you need to know.


When a Lawyer Is Sanctioned, It Must Be Reported

When a lawyer is sanctioned, it is mandatory that it is reported. If the lawyer does not report it, they can create a serious problem for themselves and their practice. When a lawyer is sanctioned, they must report it to any state bar, government agency, or federal court where you’re admitted to practice.

Proper Reporting of a Sanction Requires You to Know the Rules

Reporting the sanction means that you must follow the rules in the jurisdiction where you must file the report. Some states list their sanction reporting rules inside of their court rules. Certain government agencies, such as the USPTO, address sanction reporting in federal statutes. Some states list their rules in business and professional codes. It is up to you to do the research and find what you need. To make this stressful process a little easier, consult with a bar defense attorney. You may learn more about where you can find the rules for the jurisdictions in which you’re admitted. It may not seem like much, but having the help is highly beneficial.

Related: Lawyers, Here’s How to Recover from Bar Discipline

Sanction Report Contents

There’s certain information that must be included into the sanction report. Obviously, if you were suspended or disbarred, that information must be provided. For everything else, including private reprovals or letters of warning, it’s better to include it and not need it than find yourself facing more trouble because you should have reported it and didn’t.

If you received a minor sanction, you can call the regulator and ask whether it is mandatory for you to report it. They may willingly provide that information over the phone or direct you to the answer. If you don’t want to contact the regulator, a bar defense attorney can help point you in the right direction.

What Happens After Filing the Report?

Once you’ve filed the sanctions report, the state bar or office that received it will follow their guidelines on how to handle the report. They might open an investigation to determine if they should sanction you. This is known as reciprocal discipline. The original sanction is used as evidence, but you can still challenge the allegation on its merits in the new jurisdiction. Just keep in mind that you have a high standard to meet.

You could receive another sanction. Yet, many jurisdictions that receive the mandatory report will recognize that you’ve already faced punishment for your actions. However, they will look at how long you took after receiving the sanction to file the report.

If you receive an ethics complaint from the California Bar and you’re not sure where you should start, check out The State Bar Playbook. This is Megan’s interactive and easy to use guide (and community!) that will help guide you through the process from receipt of the complaint all the way through the appeals process!