Reinstatement Proceedings

What you should know about Reinstatement Proceedings before the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board.
Reinstatement to the practice of law can be from a suspension or disbarment, voluntary inactive status, involuntary inactive status, or disability. Most reinstatement proceedings are from voluntary inactive status, while the most contentious reinstatement proceedings are those involving a formerly admitted attorney seeking reinstatement from a suspension or disbarment.Frequently Asked Questions:

I voluntarily assumed inactive status in order to be a stay-at-home parent while my children were young. Can’t I just resume active status?
Not if you have been on inactive status for three years or longer. If you have been on inactive status for three years or longer, you will have to petition for reinstatement and have a hearing before the Disciplinary Board.

Since I was on voluntary inactive status and have never been disciplined, won’t my hearing essentially be a pro forma proceeding?
That used to be the case, but in my experience, the landscape has changed. Disciplinary Counsel is now taking a more aggressive stance even with attorneys on voluntary inactive status who petition for reinstatement, at least with respect to the inactive attorney’s burden of proof in showing that he or she has the requisite competency and learning in law to be readmitted.

Do all suspended attorneys have to petition for reinstatement?
No. Only attorneys who have been suspended in excess of one year have to petition for reinstatement. That is why you will often see an attorney suspended for “one year and one day” by the Supreme Court following disciplinary proceedings.

What does a suspended or disbarred attorney have to prove in order to be reinstated?
A suspended or disbarred attorney has the burden of proving that he or she has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law required for admission to practice, and that the resumption of the practice of law will be neither detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar nor subversive of the public interest. There have been several recent developments with respect to this burden of proof that the formerly admitted attorney seeking reinstatement should be aware of.

When may a disbarred attorney seek reinstatement?
A disbarred attorney has to wait at least five years before seeking reinstatement.

Is there any difference then between a five year suspension and a disbarment?
Yes. First, a suspended attorney may petition for reinstatement nine (9) months prior to the expiration of the period of suspension. Therefore, an attorney suspended for five years may actually petition for reinstatement after the expiration of four years and three months, while an attorney who has been disbarred has to wait the full five years before petitioning for reinstatement. More importantly, pursuant to case law, an attorney who has been disbarred as opposed to being suspended has a threshold burden of proving that his or her misconduct was not so egregious that he or she can never hope to be reinstated, and that sufficient time has passed since the misconduct that the petition for discipline can be considered.

What is involved in petitioning for reinstatement from a suspension or disbarment?
The suspended or disbarred attorney must file a Petition for Reinstatement and fill out a rather lengthy and detailed Reinstatement Questionnaire. The Questionnaire requires the production/disclosure of a great deal of information. Because of the amount of information required in the Questionnaire, and the burden of proof the Petitioner must meet at hearing, one should start preparing for the reinstatement proceeding long before the actual filing of the Petition for Reinstatement.

What is the procedure for a Petition for Reinstatement?
The procedure for a Petition for Reinstatement is generally the same as that for a formal disciplinary proceeding. The formerly admitted attorney will have to go through a three-tiered litigation process, involving first a hearing before a Hearing Committee, then an adjudication and recommendation by the Disciplinary Board, followed by the ultimate determination by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The matter will be considered de novo at each stage of the proceeding, even in the absence of any exceptions.

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If you have been contacted by the Disciplinary Board, the Client Security Fund, the Board of Law Examiners, the Judicial Conduct Board, or if you have any other ethical concerns or questions, contact Attorney Craig Simpson at 412-731-3100 to arrange an appointment at our convenient and confidential office. All inquiries are strictly confidential.