We posted earlier about some interesting language in a disbarment case, noting in passing that the Sixth Circuit – unlike most courts — appears to treat its disbarments as confidential. The circuits have a surprising amount of variation in the formality in their approach to disciplinary proceedings. Some (like the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Federal Circuits) have standing disciplinary committees/panels or relatively complex procedural rules. Others (like the Fifth and Seventh Circuits) add very little to the Fed. R. App. Proc. 46, while one (the Eighth Circuit) does not have any written procedures at all outside of Rule 46.
The circuits also vary in their view of the confidentiality of disbarment proceedings. Most circuits state in their local rules or procedures that the clerk will notify the state authorities or the ABA’s national data bank. Like the Supreme Court, the Second Circuit posts a list of its disbarred attorneys in its regular list of decisions and orders, but does not send its disbarment list to the ABA. From my quick survey, and informal calls to clerks and the ABA’s data bank, it looks like the Sixth Circuit may be the only circuit that treats disbarments as wholly confidential. It apparently does not send its list to the state bars or the national data bank.
Though piecemeal disbarment (i.e., each federal court conducts its own disbarment proceedings) is certainly inefficient, there is probably little utility to regularize discipline procedures between the circuits so long as it continues. But though information about disbarments in the circuit courts may not be very useful to the lawyer-using public (compared with those from state and federal district courts), it would be exceedingly easy for circuits to report their disbarments to a clearinghouse like the ABA.
If anyone has any information or clarifications about any circuits, please add them in the comments. I’ve included a list of the disciplinary procedures for each circuit after the jump.
I have included a link where the rules or procedures are not published in the same document as the local rules or IOPs.
First Circuit — Rules of Attorney Disciplinary Enforcement
Second Circuit — 2 Cir. R. 46.2(b); Rules of the Committee on Admissions and Grievances
Third Circuit — Rules of Attorney Disciplinary Enforcement
Fourth Circuit — 4 Cir. R. 46
Fifth Circuit — Disciplinary Rules (located in the Practitioner’s Handbook)
Sixth Circuit — 6 Cir. R. 46(b)
Seventh Circuit – Internal Operating Procedure 7
Eighth Circuit – None that I could locate.
Ninth Circuit — 9 Cir. R. 46-2; General Order 12.5 & 12.9a
Tenth Circuit – 10 Cir. R., Addendum III, Plan for Attorney Disciplinary Enforcement; Practitioner’s Handbook, XV(D)
Eleventh Circuit — 11 Cir. R., Addendum Eight, Rules Governing Attorney Discipline
Federal Circuit — Attorney Discipline Rules