Lawyers in New York State will be subject to a uniform disciplinary process under new rules Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced on Tuesday, a move that caps months of negotiations aimed at standardizing a system long hampered by regional differences.
The rules fix what a state commission described this year as a “uniquely decentralized system for handling attorney grievances,” bringing common standards to a state that has long stood out for its disparities in punishments and procedures.
Judge Lippman, who is retiring this week, said in a statement: “Working to eliminate regional variations and leading to a more effective attorney discipline system over all, the new rules are a vital contribution to the fair administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession throughout our state.”
Under the old system, each of the four geographically defined Appellate Division departments used different procedural rules to hear and investigate complaints against lawyers and decide sanctions.
Judge Lippman created the Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline this year to review the system. In its final report, in September, the commission said that while the process worked well in many respects, “the system is antiquated, inefficient and far too opaque — a flaw which undermines public confidence.”
The new rules even out the way complaints are investigated and adjudicated. They also include provisions for notifying the accused lawyer earlier in the course of an investigation, creating opportunities for lawyers to be diverted into monitoring programs after substance-abuse-related complaints and opening new ways for lawyers to get information about their cases.
The New York State Bar Association lauded the rules, which will go into effect in July, calling them “a very significant improvement to the process of attorney discipline.”
The association president, David P. Miranda, said in an interview, “The more consistency you can have in disciplinary proceedings, the clearer the lines are about what you can do, and the better the process is going to be both for the attorney and the public.”
Full Article & Source:
New York State Standardizes Its Oversight of Lawyers