The Florida Bar
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RULE 3-5.1 GENERALLY

3 RULES OF DISCIPLINE
3-5 TYPES OF DISCIPLINE

RULE 3-5.1 GENERALLY


    A judgment entered, finding a member of The Florida Bar guilty of misconduct, will include 1 or more of the following disciplinary measures:

    (a) Admonishments. A Supreme Court of Florida order finding minor misconduct and adjudging an admonishment may direct the respondent to appear before the Supreme Court of Florida, the board of governors, grievance committee, or the referee for administration of the admonishment. A grievance committee report and finding of minor misconduct or the board of governors, on review of the report, may direct the respondent to appear before the board of governors or the grievance committee for administration of the admonishment. A memorandum of administration of an admonishment will be made a part of the record of the proceeding after the admonishment is administered.

    (b) Minor Misconduct. Minor misconduct is the only type of misconduct for which an admonishment is an appropriate disciplinary sanction.


      (1) Criteria. In the absence of unusual circumstances misconduct will not be regarded as minor if any of the following conditions exist:

        (A) the misconduct involves misappropriation of a client's funds or property;

        (B) the misconduct resulted in or is likely to result in actual prejudice (loss of money, legal rights, or valuable property rights) to a client or other person;

        (C) the respondent has been publicly disciplined in the past 3 years;

        (D) the misconduct involved is of the same nature as misconduct for which the respondent has been disciplined in the past 5 years;

        (E) the misconduct includes dishonesty, misrepresentation, deceit, or fraud on the part of the respondent; or

        (F) the misconduct constitutes the commission of a felony under applicable law.


      (2) Discretion of Grievance Committee. A grievance committee may recommend an admonishment for minor misconduct or diversion to a practice and professionalism enhancement program when unusual circumstances are present, despite the presence of 1 or more of the criteria described in subpart (1) of this rule. When the grievance committee recommends an admonishment for minor misconduct or diversion to a practice and professionalism enhancement program under these circumstances, its report will contain a detailed explanation of the circumstances giving rise to the committee's recommendation.

      (3) Recommendation of Minor Misconduct. If a grievance committee finds the respondent guilty of minor misconduct or if the respondent admits guilt of minor misconduct and the committee concurs, the grievance committee will file its report recommending an admonishment, the manner of administration, the taxing of costs, and an assessment or administrative fee in the amount of $1,250 against the respondent. The report recommending an admonishment will be forwarded to staff counsel and the designated reviewer for review. If staff counsel does not return the report to the grievance committee to remedy a defect in the report, or if the report is not referred to the disciplinary review committee by the designated reviewer [as provided in rule 3-7.5(b)], the report will then be served on the respondent by bar counsel. The report and finding of minor misconduct becomes final unless rejected by the respondent within 15 days after service of the report. If rejected by the respondent, the report will be referred to bar counsel and referee for trial on complaint of minor misconduct to be prepared by bar counsel as in the case of a finding of probable cause. If the report of minor misconduct is not rejected by the respondent, notice of the finding of minor misconduct will be given, in writing, to the complainant.

      (4) Rejection of Minor Misconduct Reports. The rejection by the board of governors of a grievance committee report of minor misconduct, without dismissal of the case, or remand to the grievance committee, is deemed a finding of probable cause. The rejection of a report by a respondent is deemed a finding of probable cause for minor misconduct. At trial before a referee following rejection by a respondent of a report of minor misconduct, the referee may recommend any discipline authorized under these rules.

      (5) Admission of Minor Misconduct. A respondent may tender a written admission of minor misconduct to bar counsel or to the grievance committee within 15 days after a finding of probable cause by a grievance committee. An admission of minor misconduct may be conditioned on acceptance by the grievance committee, but the respondent may not condition the admission of minor misconduct on the method of administration of the admonishment or on nonpayment of costs incurred in the proceedings. An admission may be tendered after a finding of probable cause (but before the filing of a complaint) only if an admission has not been previously tendered. If the admission is tendered after a finding of probable cause, the grievance committee may consider the admission without further evidentiary hearing and may either reject the admission, affirming its prior action, or accept the admission and issue its report of minor misconduct. If a respondents admission is accepted by the grievance committee, the respondent may not later reject a report of the committee recommending an admonishment for minor misconduct. If the admission of minor misconduct is rejected, the admission may not be considered or used against the respondent in subsequent proceedings.


    (c) Probation. The respondent may be placed on probation for a stated period of time of not less than 6 months nor more than 5 years or for an indefinite period determined by conditions stated in the order. The judgment will state the conditions of the probation, which may include but are not limited to the following:

      (1) completion of a practice and professionalism enhancement program as provided elsewhere in these rules;

      (2) supervision of all or part of the respondent's work by a member of The Florida Bar;

      (3) required reporting to a designated agency;

      (4) satisfactory completion of a course of study or a paper on legal ethics approved by the Supreme Court of Florida;

      (5) supervision over fees and trust accounts as the court directs; or

      (6) restrictions on the ability to advertise legal services, either in type of advertisement or a general prohibition for a stated period of time, in cases in which rules regulating advertising have been violated or the legal representation in which the misconduct occurred was obtained by advertising.


    The respondent will reimburse the bar for the costs of supervision. The respondent may be punished for contempt on petition by The Florida Bar, as provided elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, on failure of a respondent to comply with the conditions of the probation or a finding of probable cause as to conduct of the respondent committed during the period of probation. An order of the court imposing sanctions for contempt under this rule may also terminate the probation previously imposed.

    (d) Public Reprimand. A public reprimand will be administered in the manner prescribed in the judgment but all reprimands will be reported in the Southern Reporter. Due notice will be given to the respondent of any proceeding set to administer the reprimand. The respondent must appear personally before the Supreme Court of Florida, the board of governors, any judge designated to administer the reprimand, or the referee, if required, and this appearance will be made a part of the record of the proceeding.

    (e) Suspension. The respondent may be suspended from the practice of law for a period of time to be determined by the conditions imposed by the judgment or order or until further order of the court. During this suspension the respondent continues to be a member of The Florida Bar but without the privilege of practicing. A suspension of 90 days or less does not require proof of rehabilitation or passage of the Florida bar examination and the respondent will become eligible for all privileges of members of The Florida Bar on the expiration of the period of suspension. A suspension of more than 90 days requires proof of rehabilitation and may require passage of all or part of the Florida bar examination and the respondent will not become eligible for all privileges of members of The Florida Bar until the court enters an order reinstating the respondent to membership in The Florida Bar. No suspension will be ordered for a specific period of time more than 3 years.

    An order or opinion imposing a suspension of 90 days or less will include a provision that prohibits the respondent from accepting new business from the date of the order or opinion until the end of the term of the suspension and will provide that the suspension is effective 30 days from the date of the order or opinion so that the respondent may close out the practice of law and protect the interests of existing clients, unless the court orders otherwise.

    An order or opinion imposing a suspension of more than 90 days will include a provision that prohibits the respondent from accepting new business from the date of the order or opinion until the date of the court’s order of reinstatement and will provide that the suspension is effective 30 days from the date of the order or opinion so that the respondent may close out the practice of law and protect the interests of existing clients, unless the court orders otherwise.

    (f) Disbarment. A judgment of disbarment terminates the respondents status as a member of the bar. Permanent disbarment precludes readmission. A former member who has not been permanently disbarred may only be admitted again on full compliance with the rules and regulations governing admission to the bar. Except as otherwise provided in these rules, no application for readmission may be tendered within 5 years after the date of disbarment or a longer period ordered by the court in the disbarment order or at any time after that date until all court-ordered restitution and outstanding disciplinary costs have been paid.

    Disbarment is the presumed sanction for lawyers found guilty of theft from a lawyer’s trust account or special trust funds received or disbursed by a lawyer as guardian, personal representative, receiver, or trustee. A respondent found guilty of theft will have the opportunity to offer competent, substantial evidence to rebut the presumption that disbarment is appropriate.

    Unless waived or modified by the court on motion of the respondent, an order or opinion imposing disbarment will include a provision that prohibits the respondent from accepting new business from the date of the order or opinion and will provide that the disbarment is effective 30 days from the date of the order or opinion so that the respondent may close out the practice of law and protect the interests of existing clients.

    (g) Disciplinary Revocation. A disciplinary revocation is tantamount to a disbarment. A respondent may petition for disciplinary revocation in lieu of defending against allegations of disciplinary violations. If accepted by the Supreme Court of Florida, a disciplinary revocation terminates the respondent’s status as a member of the bar. A former bar member whose disciplinary revocation has been accepted may only be admitted again upon full compliance with the rules and regulations governing admission to the bar. Like disbarment, disciplinary revocation terminates the respondent’s license and privilege to practice law and requires readmission to practice under the Rules of the Supreme Court Relating to Admissions to the Bar. No application for readmission may be tendered until the later of 5 years after the date of the order of the Supreme Court of Florida granting the petition for disciplinary revocation, or such other period of time in excess of 5 years contained in said order.

    (h) Notice to Clients. Unless the court orders otherwise, when the respondent is served with an order of disbarment, disbarment on consent, disciplinary revocation, suspension, emergency suspension, emergency probation, or placement on the inactive list for incapacity not related to misconduct, the respondent must, immediately furnish a copy of the order to:


      (1) all of the respondent's clients with matters pending in the respondent's practice;

      (2) all opposing counsel or co-counsel in the matters listed in (1), above;

      (3) all courts, tribunals, or adjudicative agencies before which the respondent is counsel of record; and

      (4) all state, federal, or administrative bars of which respondent is a member.


    Within 30 days after service of the order the respondent must furnish bar counsel with a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that have been furnished copies of the order.

    (i) Forfeiture of Fees. An order of the Supreme Court of Florida or a report of minor misconduct adjudicating a respondent guilty of entering into, charging, or collecting a fee prohibited by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar may order the respondent to forfeit the fee or any part thereof. In the case of a clearly excessive fee, the excessive amount of the fee may be ordered returned to the client, and a fee otherwise prohibited by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar may be ordered forfeited to The Florida Bar Clients' Security Fund and disbursed in accordance with its rules and regulations.

    (j) Restitution. In addition to any of the foregoing disciplinary sanctions and any disciplinary sanctions authorized elsewhere in these rules, the respondent may be ordered or agree to pay restitution to a complainant or other person if the disciplinary order finds that the respondent has received a clearly excessive, illegal, or prohibited fee or that the respondent has converted trust funds or property. The amount of restitution will be specifically set forth in the disciplinary order or agreement and will not exceed the amount by which a fee is clearly excessive, in the case of a prohibited or illegal fee will not exceed the amount of the fee, or in the case of conversion will not exceed the amount of the conversion established in disciplinary proceedings. The disciplinary order or agreement will also state to whom restitution must be made and the date by which it must be completed. Failure to comply with the order or agreement will cause the respondent to become a delinquent member and will not preclude further proceedings under these rules. The respondent must provide the bar with telephone numbers and current addresses of all individuals or entities to whom the respondent is ordered to pay restitution.

[Revised: 07/01/2012]