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Disbarment, also known as striking off, is the removal of a
lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate An advocate is a professional in the field of law. Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. The broad equivalent in many English ...

lawyer
from a
bar association A bar association is a professional association A professional association (also called a professional body, professional organization, or professional society) usually seeks to further Further or Furthur may refer to: *Furthur (bus), ''Furth ...
or the
practice of law In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving legal adviceLegal advice is the giving of a professional or formal opinion regarding the substance or procedure of the law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction ...
, thus revoking their
law licenseAn admission to practice law is acquired when a lawyer receives a license to practice law. In jurisdictions with two types of lawyer, as with barristers and solicitors, barristers must gain admission to the bar whereas for solicitors there are distin ...
or
admission to practice law An admission to practice law is acquired when a lawyer receives a license to practice law. In jurisdictions with two types of lawyer, as with barristers and solicitors, barristers must gain admission to the bar whereas for solicitors there are disti ...
. Disbarment is usually a punishment for
unethical Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'"Ethics"/ref> The field of ethics, alo ...
or criminal conduct but may also be imposed for incompetence or incapacity. Procedures vary depending on the law society.


Australia

In Australia, states regulate the Legal Profession under state law, despite many participating in a uniform scheme. Admission as a lawyer is the business of the admissions board and the Supreme Court. Disciplinary proceedings may be commenced by the Bar Association or the Law Society of which one is a member, or the board itself.


Germany

In Germany, a ''
Berufsverbot is an order of "professional disqualification" under German law. Berufsverbot may be translated into English as "professional ban". A disqualifies the recipient from engaging in certain professions or activities on the grounds of their crimina ...
'' is a ban on practicing a profession, which the government can issue to a lawyer for misconduct, ''
Volksverhetzung ''Volksverhetzung'', in English "incitement to hatred" (used also in the official English translation of the German Criminal Code), "incitement of popular hatred", "incitement of the masses", or "instigation of the people", is a concept in Germa ...
'' or for serious mismanagement of personal finances. In April 1933, the Nazi government issued a ''Berufsverbot'' forbidding the practice of law by Jews, Communists, and other political opponents, except for those protected by the ''
Frontkämpferprivileg The ''Frontkämpferprivileg'' (''front-line fighter's privilege'') was an exemption granted by the government of Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Social ...
''.


United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the removal of the licence to practise of a
Barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialis ...

Barrister
or
Scottish advocate
Scottish advocate
is called being "disbarred", whilst the removal of a
solicitor A solicitor is a legal practitioner A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate An advocate is a professional in the field of law. Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. ...
from the rolls in England and Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland is called being "struck off".


United States


Overview

Generally disbarment is imposed as a sanction for conduct indicating that an attorney is not fit to practice law, willfully disregarding the interests of a client,
commingling In law, commingling is a breach of trust in which a fiduciary A fiduciary is a person who holds a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to ...
funds, or engaging in fraud which impedes the administration of justice. In addition, any lawyer who is convicted of a
felony A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness Seriousness (noun; adjective: ''serious'') is an attitude of gravitas, gravity, :wikt:solemnity, solemnity, persistence, and :wikt:earnest, earnestness toward something considered t ...
is automatically disbarred in most jurisdictions, a policy that, although opposed by the
American Bar Association The American Bar Association (ABA), founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary Voluntary may refer to: * Voluntary (music)In music a voluntary is a piece of music, usually for an organ, that is played as part of a church service. In English-speak ...

American Bar Association
, has been described as a convicted felon's
just deserts Desert () in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of lang ...
. In the United States legal system, disbarment is specific to regions; one can be disbarred from some courts, while still being a member of the
bar Bar or BAR may refer to: Food *Bar (establishment) A bar is a long raised narrow table or bench designed for dispensing beer or other alcoholic beverage, alcoholic drinks. They were originally chest high, and a bar, often brass, ran the len ...
in another jurisdiction. However, under the
American Bar Association The American Bar Association (ABA), founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary Voluntary may refer to: * Voluntary (music)In music a voluntary is a piece of music, usually for an organ, that is played as part of a church service. In English-speak ...

American Bar Association
's
Model Rules of Professional Conduct The American Bar Association The American Bar Association (ABA), founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important sta ...
, which have been adopted in most states, disbarment in one state or court is grounds for disbarment in a jurisdiction which has adopted the Model Rules. Disbarment is quite rare: in 2011, only 1,046 lawyers were disbarred. Instead, lawyers are usually sanctioned by their own clients through civil malpractice proceedings, or via fine, censure, suspension, or other punishments from the disciplinary boards. To be disbarred is considered a great embarrassment and shame, even if one no longer wishes to continue a career in law. Because disbarment rules vary by area, different rules can apply depending on where a lawyer is disbarred. Notably, the majority of US states have no procedure for permanently disbarring a person. Depending on the jurisdiction, a lawyer may reapply to the bar immediately, after five to seven years, or be banned for life.


Notable U.S. disbarments

The 20th and the 21st centuries have seen one former U.S.
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...

president
and one former U.S.
vice president A vice president, also director in British English, is an officer An officer is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously apply ...
disbarred, and another former president suspended from one bar and caused to resign from another bar rather than face disbarment. Former Vice President
Spiro Agnew Spiro Theodore Agnew (November 9, 1918 – September 17, 1996) was the 39th vice president of the United States The vice president of the United States (VPOTUS) is the second-highest officer in the of the , after the , and ranks fir ...

Spiro Agnew
, having pleaded
no contest ' is a legal term that comes from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through ...
(which subjects a person to the same criminal penalties as a guilty plea, but is not an admission of guilt for a civil suit) to charges of
bribery Bribery is defined by ''Black's Law Dictionary ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most widely used law dictionary Image:Legal Dictionaries.jpg, 300px, Several English and Russian legal dictionaries A law dictionary (also known as legal dictionary) ...

bribery
and
tax evasion Tax evasion is an illegal attempt to defeat the imposition of taxes A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a g ...
, was disbarred from
Maryland Maryland ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware ...

Maryland
, the state of which he had previously been
governor A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the Executive (government), executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, ''governor'' may be t ...
. Former President
Richard Nixon Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913April 22, 1994) was the 37th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the and of the . The president directs the of the and is the of the . The power o ...

Richard Nixon
was disbarred from
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
in 1976 for
obstruction of justice Obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin ''Wikt:ius#Latin, juris'' 'law' + ''Wikt:dictio, dictio'' 'declaration') is the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice, as defined by the ...
related to the
Watergate scandal The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal in the United States involving the administration Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management Management (or managing) is the administration of an organiz ...
. He had attempted to resign from the New York bar, as he had done with California and the Supreme Court, but his resignation was not accepted as he would not acknowledge that he was unable to defend himself from the charges brought against him. In 2001, following a 5-year suspension by the Arkansas bar, the
United States Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the Federal judiciary of the United States, federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate and largely Procedures of the Supreme Court of the United ...

United States Supreme Court
suspended
Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton ('' né'' Blythe III; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 42nd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and ...

Bill Clinton
, providing 40 days for him to contest disbarment. He resigned before the end of the 40 day period, thus avoiding disbarment.
Alger Hiss Alger Hiss (November 11, 1904 – November 15, 1996) was an American government official accused in 1948 of having spied for the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spa ...

Alger Hiss
was disbarred for a felony conviction, but later became the first person reinstated to the bar in Massachusetts after disbarment. In 2007,
Mike Nifong Michael Byron Nifong (born September 14, 1950) is an American former North Carolina North Carolina () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U. ...
, the
District Attorney In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, s ...
of
Durham County, North Carolina Durham County is a County (United States), county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the population was 267,587, making it the List of counties in North Carolina, sixth-most populous cou ...
who presided over the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case, was disbarred for
prosecutorial misconduct In jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of law. Scholars of jurisprudence seek to explain the nature of law in its most general form and provide a deeper understanding of legal reasoning, legal systems, La ...
related to his handling of the case. In April 2012, a three-member panel appointed by the
Arizona Supreme Court The Arizona Supreme Court is the state supreme court of the U.S. state of Arizona. Sitting in the Supreme Court building in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix, the court consists of a chief justice, a vice chief justice, and five associate justice ...
voted unanimously to disbar Andrew Thomas, former
County Attorney In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Was ...
of
Maricopa County, Arizona Maricopa County is located in the south-central part of the U.S. state of Arizona. 2020 United States census, As of the 2020 census, the county's population was 4,420,568, making it the state's most populous county, and List of the most populou ...
, and a former close confederate of Maricopa County Sheriff
Joe Arpaio Joseph Michael Arpaio (; born June 14, 1932) is an American former law enforcement officer and politician. He served as the 36th Sheriff A sheriff is a government official, with varying duties, existing in some countries with historical ti ...

Joe Arpaio
. According to the panel, Thomas "outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law" while serving as Maricopa County Attorney. The panel found "clear and convincing evidence" that Thomas brought unfounded and malicious criminal and civil charges against political opponents, including four state judges and the state attorney general. "Were this a criminal case," the panel concluded, "we are confident that the evidence would establish this conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt." Jack Thompson, the Florida lawyer noted for his activism against
Howard Stern Howard Allan Stern (born January 12, 1954) is an American radio and television personality, comedian, and author. He is best known for his radio show, ''The Howard Stern Show'', which gained popularity when it was nationally syndicated on terres ...

Howard Stern
, video games, and rap music, was permanently disbarred for various charges of misconduct. The action was the result of several grievances claiming that Thompson had made defamatory, false statements and attempted to humiliate, embarrass, harass or intimidate his opponents. The order was made on September 25, 2008, effective October 25. However, Thompson attempted to appeal to the higher courts in order to avoid the penalty actually taking effect. Neither the US District court, nor the US Supreme Court would hear his appeal, rendering the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court final.
Ed Fagan Edward Davis (Ed) Fagan (born October 20, 1952) is a former Americans, American reparation (legal), reparations lawyer who was disbarred for his conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural syst ...
victims against Swiss banks, was disbarred in New York (in 2008)Noeleen G. Walder. Lawyer Disbarred for Failing to Pay Sanctions, Fees in Holocaust Case. New York Law Journal. December 12, 2008. http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202426698941 and New Jersey (in 2009) for failing to pay court fines and fees; and for misappropriating client and escrow trust funds.Koloff, Abbott
NJ: Disbar ex-Parsippany lawyer for stealing from Holocaust survivors.
Daily Record. January 22, 2009.
F. Lee Bailey
F. Lee Bailey
, noted criminal defense attorney, was disbarred by the state of Florida in 2001, with reciprocal disbarment in Massachusetts in 2002. The Florida disbarment was the result of his handling of stock in the DuBoc marijuana case. Bailey was found guilty of 7 counts of attorney misconduct by the Florida Supreme Court. Bailey had transferred a large portion of DuBoc's assets into his own accounts, using the interest gained on those assets to pay for personal expenses. In March 2005, Bailey filed to regain his law license in Massachusetts. The book ''Florida Pulp Nonfiction'' details the peculiar facts of the DuBoc case along with extended interviews with Bailey that include his own defense. Bailey is also best known for representing murder suspect O. J. Simpson in 1994.


References

{{Reflist Legal ethics Practice of law
Abuse of the legal system{{Cat main, Legal abuse Articles that pertain, directly or indirectly, to improper use of the legal system, or to abuse ''by'' the legal system, or to allegations thereof. Law by issue Legal ethics Practice of law Sociology of law Lawsuits Abus ...