On the Abuse and Limits of Lawyer Discipline

9 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2012 Last revised: 18 Sep 2012

See all articles by Vincent R. Johnson

Vincent R. Johnson

Saint Mary's University of San Antonio

Date Written: July 1, 2012


Despite being routinely underfunded, lawyer disciplinary processes must operate in ways that merit the confidence of both society at large and the American legal profession. This means that those who participate in lawyer grievance adjudication must be vigilant against systemic abuse (whether deliberate or unintentional) and mindful of factors that limit institutional competence. This essay argues that, in many instances, disciplinary authorities should abstain from deciding grievances that would require them to rule on unresolved scientific questions, particularly if controversial matters are involved. The essay further urges that grievance rulings must be consistent with American constitutional principles which favor robust debate of public issues and hold that even unpopular parties have a right to legal counsel. A lawyer should never be subject to discipline based on allegedly misleading advertising absent persuasive evidence that the lawyer knowingly, recklessly, or negligently made a provably false assertion of fact.

Keywords: legal ethics, lawyer discipline, constitutional law, professional responsibility, grievance

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Vincent R., On the Abuse and Limits of Lawyer Discipline (July 1, 2012). 44 CONNtemplations (Connecticut Law Review), 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2147484

Vincent R. Johnson (Contact Author)

Saint Mary's University of San Antonio ( email )

1 Camino Santa Maria
San Antonio, TX 78023
United States
210-431-2131 (Phone)

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