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Appeals Regarding Attorney Discipline

Lawyers entering into practice of law are obliged to abide by rules of professional conduct in every state.   Lawyers who violate the rules can be disciplined if the wrongdoing amounts to unethical conduct.[i] Attorney discipline system is enforced by states to improve the effort to protect client rights and guarantee lawyers a full and fair evaluation of complaints against them.

The judgments or orders of a trial court for disciplining an attorney can be appealed or reviewed.  Generally, the appeals are determined using the general provisions for appeals in civil cases.[ii] Charges should be filed and a hearing should be conducted before debarring an attorney.  Any order striking the name of an attorney from the roll of attorneys in any state is appealable.[iii] However, in some states, when disciplinary actions are taken against an attorney by original action in the state Supreme Court no appeal is allowed.  In some states, the Supreme Court alone has power to enforce disciplinary actions on attorneys.

If an attorney commits misconduct that constitutes a contempt of court, appeals or reviews can be moved against orders disciplining the attorney according to rules of appeals in contempt of court actions.[iv]

When an attorney, either alone or with client does not comply with the order of a court for discovery or disclosure, the court can impose sanctions on the attorney and/or the client.  The order imposing discovery sanctions is not a final decision and therefore, it is not appealable.[v]

When a federal district court imposes sanctions regarding representations in pleadings before court under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the federal district court’s order is not final.  An order that is not final is not appealable.  However, an order imposing sanctions can be considered final if the amount of sanction is decided by the court.[vi]

A sanction order imposed against an attorney for misrepresentations to a court or to opposing party in a case is not appealable unless it forms a final judgment.[vii]

[i] Commonwealth v. Roe, 129 Ky. 650 (Ky. 1908)

[ii] In re McDonald, 157 Ky. 92 (Ky. 1914)

[iii] In re Gill, 3 A.D.3d 109 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep’t 2004)

[iv] Hamilton v. Municipal Court, 163 Ariz. 374 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1989)

[v] In re Johns-Manville Corp., 32 B.R. 728 (S.D.N.Y. 1983)

[vi] Carlson v. Arrowhead Concrete Works, Inc., 445 F.3d 1046 (8th Cir. Minn. 2006)

[vii] Sanders Assocs. v. Summagraphics Corp., 2 F.3d 394 (Fed. Cir. 1993)

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