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How are lawyers punished for misconduct?

State supreme courts can punish lawyers in a number of ways. The worst form of lawyer sanction in the legal profession is disbarment, which means that the lawyer is no longer capable of practicing law, as he or she has lost his or her law license. Stealing money from a client, committing a serious crime, or lying to the court on important matters could result in disbarment proceedings.

In many states, lawyers could face a suspension for a period of several years if they commit serious breaches of the lawyer ethical rules. They also could receive a public censure or a private reprimand. All states do not have the same level of punishment for attorneys.

The ABA’s Standards for Imposing Legal Discipline—adopted in 1986 to serve as a guide and provide some much-needed uniformity in the area of lawyer discipline—provide for several types of lawyer discipline. These include disbarment, suspension, interim suspension, reprimand, admonition, and probation.


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