State courts in Michigan, Texas and California unanimously ruled - and that was back in 1996 - that attorney discipline does not necessarily related to an attorney's fitness to practice law, or moral character.
Which raises a question (once again) why we need attorney regulation at all, especially that such decisions come from the courts regulating the legal profession.
I would like to point out three more extremely interesting things about attorney regulation in California - which are, I am sure, characterize attorney regulation in all other states. I know for a fact New York is quite like California, even though it does not have an organized bar, but attorney discipline is used in New York as retaliation against whistle-blowers of misconduct in the government and among well-connected attorneys instead of to discipline attorneys who do real harm to the public.
First. California's law school graduates' most recent bar passage rate, as released on Friday the 13th this May, 2016, is 35.7% - approximately 1 in every 3 bar exam takers failed it.
Second. On Thursday May 12, 2016, an audit was released of California State Bar finances criticizing the State Bar for:
- lack of transparency;
- inflated salaries for executives and
- failure to dedicate money for compensation of victims of attorney misconduct (of course, if no discipline is imposed on well-connected attorneys and attorneys working for the government, victims of their misconduct are not even counted as victims).
- defense attorneys and civil rights attorneys get routinely suspended, including by California Supreme Court;
- then, California Supreme Court, with a straight face, claims that such suspension might not be related to fitness to practice law and sustains criminal convictions where defense counsel continued to represent clients during the suspension; and
- attorney regulation and discipline is farmed out to super-majorities of market players and their labor organizations who (1) pay their executives inflated salaries; (2) cook their books to prevent disclosure of financial problems and inconstistency of their operation with the declared purpose of protecting the public; (3) cleanse their ranks of those who criticize that attitude and (4) proceed with investigations against whistle-blowers.