Document Type

Research Memorandum

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In most matters, the local bar association governs attorney discipline. Depending on the offense by the attorney, discipline can range from a private or public reprimand to a suspension or even disbarment. However, in special circumstances and when the court believes it must protect the general public from attorneys it finds unfit to practice, a bankruptcy court, as well as other courts, may permanently disbar an attorney from practicing before it. However this exercise of authority requires cautious judicial discretion.

Bankruptcy courts, in particular, may find the authority to discipline attorneys through multiple federal statutes, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, local bankruptcy court rules and inherent power of federal courts. This is best illustrated in the case In re Dobbs, where a bankruptcy court in Mississippi ruled it had the authority derived from multiple sources to permanently disbar an attorney from practicing before its district. These actions were taken by the court because of multiple offenses by the attorney and the seriousness of his misconduct. The In re Dobbs court found this as an instance where the only way to deter the future misconduct of the attorney was to disbar him. Further the In re Dobbs court stated the purpose of the disbarment is not for punishment, but instead to protect the general public. Moreover, besides the court-issued disbarments by the In re Dobbs Court, there have been other examples of this discipline, by bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy courts. Therefore, the authority to disbar an attorney from practicing before the court is not limited to the bankruptcy court.


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