The Purposes of Lawyer Discipline

  • to protect the public.
  • to protect the integrity of the legal system.
  • to ensure the administration of justice.
  • to deter further unethical conduct.
  • to rehabilitate the offending lawyer.
  • to deter unethical conduct by educating other lawyers and the public.

Neither the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) nor the Disciplinary Board provides legal services or gives advice to anyone filing a complaint. The complaint process should not be viewed as a substitute for a civil action for damages against the lawyer. The disciplinary system is not designed to compensate a complaining party for monetary loss or emotional distress incurred as a result of unethical conduct. Anyone seeking to recover money damages should consult another lawyer to discuss bringing a civil suit against the original lawyer for money damages.

Standards of Professional Conduct

The Louisiana Supreme Court has adopted high standards of ethics and professional competence for lawyers who practice in Louisiana known as the Rules of Professional Conduct. When lawyers enter practice in Louisiana, they obligate themselves to uphold the law and to abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Lawyers who violate these professional and ethical obligations are subject to discipline. Lawyers in Louisiana (not taxpayers) pay for the disciplinary system by contributing a portion of their annual dues to the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. This statewide agency was established by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1990 to handle attorney disciplinary matters. The members of the Disciplinary Board and the staff of ODC appreciate your interest and concern. They seek fair, impartial, and vigorous enforcement of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the interest of the public, clients, and the legal profession.

Forms of Discipline

The forms of discipline which may be imposed upon a lawyer for engaging in unethical conduct are: private admonition, public reprimand, suspension for a specified period of time, disbarment, and permanent disbarment.

Private admonition is a form of discipline that is available only before formal charges have been filed and at the discretion of ODC. Once a lawyer has been formally charged with engaging in unethical conduct, the minimum sanction he/she can receive is public reprimand. The public reprimand is published in the Louisiana bar journal and the local newspaper and is typically imposed for minor misconduct.

Suspension is another form of sanction in which the lawyer is prohibited from practicing law for a specified period of time. Suspension can range anywhere from one day to three years in length and may require the lawyer to seek reinstatement to the practice of law, depending upon the length of the suspension. Suspension for a period greater than three years is considered disbarment. Although disbarment is a form of sanction in which the lawyer loses his/her license to practice law, a disbarred lawyer may apply for readmission to the practice of law after five years have elapsed from the effective date of the disbarment.

The harshest sanction available in Louisiana’s attorney disciplinary system is permanent disbarment. If the Louisiana Supreme Court imposes permanent disbarment, the lawyer is prohibited from ever returning to the practice of law.

Where a disciplinary sanction is deserved, the actual result will depend upon the nature of the offense and the severity of the lawyer’s actions.