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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, shall include one 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, upon review of such 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 shall thereafter be made a part of the record of the proceeding.

    (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 shall 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. Despite the presence of 1 or more of the criteria described in subdivision (1) above, a grievance committee may recommend an admonishment for minor misconduct or diversion to a practice and professionalism enhancement program when unusual circumstances are present. When the grievance committee recommends an admonishment for minor misconduct or diversion to a practice and professionalism enhancement program under such circumstances, its report shall 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 shall admit guilt of minor misconduct and the committee concurs, the grievance committee shall 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 shall 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 therein, 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 shall then be served on the respondent by bar counsel. The report and finding of minor misconduct shall become final unless rejected by the respondent within 15 days after service of the report. If rejected by the respondent, the report shall 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 shall 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, shall be deemed a finding of probable cause. The rejection of such report by a respondent shall be deemed a finding of probable cause for minor misconduct. Upon 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. Within 15 days after a finding of probable cause by a grievance committee, a respondent may tender a written admission of minor misconduct to bar counsel or the grievance committee. An admission of minor misconduct may be conditioned upon acceptance by the grievance committee, but the respondent may not condition the admission of minor misconduct upon the method of administration of the admonishment or upon nonpayment of costs incurred in the proceedings. Such an admission may be tendered after a finding of probable cause (but before the filing of a complaint) only if such an admission has not been previously tendered. If the admission is tendered after a finding of probable cause, the grievance committee may consider such admission without further evidentiary hearing and may either reject the admission, thereby affirming its prior action, or accept the admission and issue its report of minor misconduct. If a respondent's admission is accepted by the grievance committee, the respondent may not thereafter reject a report of the committee recommending an admonishment for minor misconduct. If the admission of minor misconduct is rejected, such admission shall 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 shall 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) the making of reports to a designated agency;

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

      (5) such supervision over fees and trust accounts as the court may direct; 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. Upon 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, the respondent may be punished for contempt on petition by The Florida Bar, as provided elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. 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 shall be administered in the manner prescribed in the judgment but all such reprimands shall be reported in the Southern Reporter. Due notice shall be given to the respondent of any proceeding set to administer the reprimand. The respondent shall 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 such appearance shall be made a part of the record of the proceeding.

    (e) Suspension. The respondent may be suspended from the practice of law for a definite period of time or an indefinite period thereafter to be determined by the conditions imposed by the judgment. During such suspension the respondent shall continue to be a member of The Florida Bar but without the privilege of practicing. A suspension of 90 days or less shall not require proof of rehabilitation or passage of the Florida bar examination and the respondent shall become eligible for all privileges of members of The Florida Bar upon the expiration of the period of suspension. A suspension of more than 90 days shall require proof of rehabilitation and may require passage of all or part of the Florida bar examination and the respondent shall 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 shall be ordered for a specific period of time in excess of 3 years.

    Unless waived or modified by the court on motion of the respondent showing good cause, an order or opinion imposing a suspension of 90 days or less shall 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 shall 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 waived or modified by the court on motion of the respondent showing good cause, an order or opinion imposing a suspension of more than 90 days shall 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 shall 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.

    (f) Disbarment. A judgment of disbarment terminates the respondent's status as a member of the bar. Permanent disbarment shall preclude readmission. A former member who has not been permanently disbarred may only be admitted again upon full compliance with the rules and regulations governing admission to the bar. Except as might be otherwise provided in these rules, no application for readmission may be tendered within 5 years after the date of disbarment or such longer period as the court might determine in the disbarment order and thereafter 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 in a similar capacity such as trustee under a specific trust document. A respondent found guilty of such theft shall 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 shall include a provision that prohibits the respondent from accepting new business from the date of the order or opinion and shall 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. Upon service on the respondent of 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 shall, unless this requirement is waived or modified in the court's order, forthwith 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; and

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


    Within 30 days after service of the order the respondent shall 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. In such instances the amount of restitution shall be specifically set forth in the disciplinary order or agreement and shall not exceed the amount by which a fee is clearly excessive, in the case of a prohibited or illegal fee shall not exceed the amount of such fee, or in the case of conversion shall not exceed the amount of the conversion established in disciplinary proceedings. The disciplinary order or agreement shall also state to whom restitution shall be made and the date by which it shall be completed. Failure to comply with the order or agreement shall not preclude further proceedings under these rules.

[Revised: 07/01/2012]