Legal Ethics

Commission urges more standardized discipline rules and penalties for New York lawyers

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New York should adopt a uniform policy for attorney discipline and punishment, based on the American Bar Association standards for imposing lawyer sanctions, a commission recommended Friday.

The Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline also suggested that a coordinator of attorney discipline position be created, the New York Law Journal reports. Each of the state’s four appellate divisions would continue to have committees responsible for attorney discipline, the commission suggests, and the coordinator would ensure that the committees enforce rules in a uniform fashion.

A report (PDF) by the commission found that in many ways, New York’s attorney discipline system works well. But it’s “antiquated, inefficient and far too opaque—a flaw which undermines public confidence.”

Also, the commission recommended that the state set up a diversion program for attorney misconduct likely caused by mental illness or substance abuse and establish a better system of informing consumers how to bring attorney disciplinary actions.

Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, appointed the commission. It was chaired by Barry Cozier, an attorney with LeClair Ryan.

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