Proposed Third Circuit Court of Appeals Disciplinary Rules

The Third Circuit has proposed a set of Rules of Attorney Discipline Enforcement for public comment.  The text of the proposed rules can be found here.  In summary, the proposal provides for discipline for attorneys who are convicted of “a serious crime” in or subjected to discipline by another court, or whose conduct with respect to the Third Circuit violates the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the court’s Internal Operating Procedures, or orders or instructions of the Court or the rules of conduct of any other court, or for “any other conduct unbecoming a member of the bar of this Court.”  A range of disciplinary sanctions is available, from reprimand to disbarment.  Sanctions under 28 U.S.C. §1927 or Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38 are not covered by these proposed rules unless notice to the contrary is given.  An extensive set of procedural rules for the disciplinary process represents the bulk of the proposal.

The proposed rules also create two new types of status:  “disability inactive status” and “inactive status.”  The former is intended for “an attorney whose mental or physical condition prevents the attorney from competently representing the interest of the attorney’s clients.”  Disability inactive status is automatic in certain circumstances, such as when an attorney is involuntarily committed or is declared incompetent in a judicial proceeding.  The Third Circuit may on its own institute proceedings to place an attorney on disability inactive status as well.

Inactive status attaches if an attorney has not entered an appearance in the Third Circuit for five years, has asked the Clerk to designate him or her as inactive, or has notified the Clerk of his or her wish to retire from the Third Circuit Bar.  An attorney may avoid inactive status by filing, before the end of the five-year period, a form accompanied by a statement that he or she wishes to remain active.  There is no fee for doing this.  If these proposed rules are adopted, attorneys who practice in the Third Circuit only intermittently will need to monitor the time that has elapsed since their last appearance if they wish to remain active members of the Third Circuit Bar.

Any comments on the proposed rules are due by March 9, 2015.