Carole Squire, a former judge on the Franklin County, Ohio Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court, has been the subject of many news stories regarding accusations of judicial misconduct and an appeal of election results.  She received a two-year disbarment from the Ohio Supreme Court, and the Sixth Circuit just affirmed a similar suspension.  Federal court disbarment actions are independent of state disbarment actions, but will usually follow the state decisions.  The Ability of an Attorney to Practice in Federal Courts after the Attorney has been Disbarred or Suspended by State Courts, 21 J. Legal Prof. 187, 188 (1996).  But her case presents an interesting (if perhaps accidental) wrinkle in federal disbarment procedure.

Judge Martin’s opinion, In re Carole H Squire.pdf, curiously states that the district court “disbarred Squire from practicing in federal court.”   Because each federal court has its own admission and disbarment procedures, the Southern District of Ohio can usually only disbar a lawyer from that court, not another district court, the Sixth Circuit, or the Supreme Court.  See In re Cook, 551 F.3d 542, 544 (6th Cir. 2009) (affirming order of permanent disbarment from the Northern District of Ohio).  An order disbarring an attorney from all federal courts at once would be a quite a novelty — and the lower court docket confirms that the district court only barred her from practicing in its own district.

These piecemeal disbarment proceedings can lead to strange results.  For example, J. Harvey Crow was disbarred first from the U.S. Supreme Court, In re Disbarment of Crow, 359 U.S. 1007 (1959), then from the Northern District of Ohio, In re Disbarment of Crow, 181 F. Supp. 718, 719 (N.D. Ohio 1959).  The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s disbarment, In re Crow, 283 F.2d 685 (6th Cir. 1960), but it is hard to determine whether the Sixth Circuit itself disbarred Mr. Crow. Though both the Supreme Court and the district courts make disbarment part of their regular public dockets, the Sixth Circuit (like some other federal courts of appeal) does not publish a list of disbarred lawyers and does not have a standing disciplinary committee.

Perhaps Judge Martin is suggesting that if a lawyer has engaged in conduct warranting loss of the right to practice before one federal court, it is difficult to see why another federal court would reach a different result.