Texas Supreme Court Adopts New Guidelines for Attorney Discipline
By: Amy Agnew
Several updates to the Texas attorney discipline system became effective June 1, 2018. Included in these updates are disciplinary sanction guidelines for the grievance committees and district courts to use when determining a sanction. The specific sanction guidelines are a departure from the former rules, which stated only general factors to be considered by either the grievance panels or district courts when imposing a sanction. The intent is to create uniformity and consistency among the different district grievance committees and district courts in Texas when imposing sanctions.
Part XV to the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure sets forth the specific guidelines for imposing sanctions. The guidelines “are designed to promote: (1) consideration of all factors relevant to imposing the appropriate level of Sanction in an individual case; (2) consideration of the appropriate weight of such factors in light of the stated goals of lawyer discipline; and (3) consistency in the imposition of disciplinary Sanctions for the same or similar rule violations among the various district grievance committees and district courts that consider these matters.” See rule 15.01 of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure.
In addition to the specific sanction guidelines, the rules set out general factors to be considered when imposing sanctions: (1) the duty violated; (2) the Respondent’s level of culpability; (3) the potential or actual injury caused by the Respondent’s misconduct; and (4) the existence of aggravating or mitigation factors. See rule 15.02.
Also outlined in Part XV are the appropriate sanctions for violations of various disciplinary rules. Appendix “A” to the Rules applies the specific guidelines outlined in Part XV to each specific disciplinary rule. For instance, if a lawyer has been found to have violated Rule 1.03 of the regarding communication, then either the district grievance committee or district court will look to Guideline 15.04A in the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure when imposing a sanction. Again, this will foster uniformity and consistency in the imposition of sanctions across Texas.
The amendments to the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure will apply to grievances filed on or after June 1, 2018, regardless of when the conduct that is the subject of the grievance occurred.