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Count amends rules concerning emergency suspensions when lawyers are charged with a felony

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The Florida Supreme Court, acting on its own motion, amended a Bar rule that governs the emergency suspension of lawyers.

The amendments, which take effect October 30, pertain to Rule 3-5.2 (Emergency Suspension and Interim Probation or Interim Placement on the Inactive List for Incapacity Not Related to Misconduct).

The amendment adds the following sentence to 3-5.2 (a)(1), “The fact that a lawyer has been charged with a felony by an indictment or information in state or federal court may, for the purposes of this rule, constitute clear and convincing evidence that the lawyer’s continued practice of law would cause great public harm when such a felony charge alleges conduct reflecting adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.”

In In Re: Amendment to Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 3-5.2, Case No. SC2023-0108, justices note that they modified a version that was publicly noticed in the February 2023 edition of the Bar News.

“In considering of the comments received following publication, we modify this new sentence to clarify that the felony charge underlying the suspensions must be ‘by indictment or information in state or federal court.’”

The Supreme Court initially requested the amendments in a June 11, 2021, letter to the Bar. The letter noted that Bar Rule 3-7.2 provides for suspensions only after there has been a determination of guilt in a criminal case.

“Without an appropriate rule modification, an attorney may remain eligible to practice law during the pendency of a felony case while the attorney may also be unwilling or unable to respond fully in disciplinary proceedings,” the letter stated.

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