On Saturday, October 1, 2016, New York implemented new procedures for disciplining attorneys throughout the state. The rules were adopted in December 2015 by the presiding justices of the four appellate departments and former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, based on recommendations by the Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline appointed by Lippman.
The new disciplinary procedures include: (1) specific programs to handle misconduct attributable to alcohol/substance abuse or mental illness; (2) standardizing procedures for reinstatement after suspension or disbarment; and (3) permitting grievance committees and attorneys to enter into sanction agreements without disciplinary proceedings.
Proponents of the new procedures believe that standardizing the disciplinary rules should, in general, make the process fairer, under the rationale that a similarity of procedure will lead to similarity of result. It remains to be seen whether that rationale bares out, particularly given how deeply ingrained the differing departments’ customs and procedures are. However, if uniformly implemented, the changes appear to be an appropriate step in the right direction.