By Gary Blankenship
A rule to divert disruptive lawyers from the Bar’s grievance process into evaluation and treatment programs designed to address their problems has been presented to the Board of Governors.
Disciplinary Procedure Committee Chair Bruce Robinson unveiled new Bar Rule 3-5.5 at the board’s January meeting. It will be voted on at a future meeting.
“It is a different approach to disruptive lawyers,” Robinson told board members, encouraging them to carefully review the rule.
The rule sets standards for diversion and specifies what type of conduct will qualify.
Specifically, the rule says: “This rule is applicable to lawyers who have not been adjudged incompetent and who exhibit conduct disruptive of the judicial process and an inability to practice law with reasonable skill and competence, an inability to practice law with reasonable skill and competence alone, or who engage in behavior that a lawyer of ordinary prudence would consider inconsistent with professional standards and norms. Examples of this type of conduct include, but are not limited to:
“(1) a pattern of filing vexatious pleadings;
“(2) consistent inappropriate, impulsive, or angry outbursts within the legal process;
“(3) repetitive disrespectful, derogatory, profane, or condescending communications with judges, lawyers, witnesses, parties, jurors, or others involved in the judicial process;
“(4) delusional, paranoid, or inappropriately accusatory behavior;
“(5) consistent refusal to accept responsibility for one’s own conduct;
“(6) chronic argumentativeness;
“(7) chronic failure to exercise self-control and inability to accept court rulings and orders; and
“(8) filing incoherent pleadings.”
The rule also provides that lawyers may not be referred to the diversion process more than one time in their career, establishes criteria for those evaluating and treating lawyers in the diversion program, and requires the local grievance committee investigating the lawyer to approve the diversion.