Recent Discipline Decision Vacated By Georgia Supreme Court

The Supreme Court seldom vacates its own ruling, but it did just that after initially issuing an opinion disbarring an attorney for violations of Rules 1.3 and 1.4 of the Georgia Rule of Professional Conduct.   

Mistakes happen.

Several years ago, I represented an attorney in a similar situation.  In my case, the Supreme Court rejected the State Bar’s Notice of Discipline for private reprimand, but the rejection order was not served on either the State Bar’s counsel nor on the responding attorney.  After not receiving a new Notice of Discipline for several months, the Supreme Court issued a lengthy suspension based on the record before it.  I was hired by the attorney after the suspension (he has been pro se up until then) and filed a motion to reconsider based on the failure of the Supreme Court to serve its order on the parties.  Like the subject case, the Supreme Court vacated its own opinion and remanded the matter back to the State Bar.  After developing the record and trying the case before a special master, my client was given a Review Panel Reprimand rather than the original suspension.  

The Supreme Court rarely vacates its disciplinary decisions, but it will in those situations in which there has been a procedural issue that has caused confusion.  The case is rarely over at that point, however.  The matter is simply remanded to the State Bar.  In some cases, this can be a great opportunity to supplement the record to support a reduction in discipline.  

Voluntary Discipline Of Review Panel Reprimand Accepted By Supreme Court  

In another interesting discipline case, the Supreme Court unanimously approved a petition for voluntary discipline for Review Panel reprimand by an attorney that admitted to violating Rule 1.3, 1.16 and 9.3.  The complaint arose out of a pro bono representation.  The attorney became overwhelmed when the case was spotlighted in the national media.  She admittedly exercised poor judgment, was not properly diligent, and failed to timely respond to the notice of discipline.  Mitigating factors identified by the court were cooperation with replacement counsel and deep remorse.  The Bar approved the requested Review Panel Reprimand.

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