Rule 20

Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement

  1. Transmittal of Evidence. Upon receipt of sufficient evidence demonstrating that a lawyer subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of this court has committed a violation of the [state Rules of Professional Conduct] or is under a disability as herein defined and poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public, disciplinary counsel shall:

    (i) transmit the evidence to the court together with a proposed order for interim suspension; and
    (ii) contemporaneously make a reasonable attempt to provide the lawyer with notice, which may include notice by telephone, that a proposed order for immediate interim suspension has been transmitted to the court.
  2. Immediate Interim Suspension. Upon examination of the evidence transmitted to the court by disciplinary counsel and of rebuttal evidence, if any, which the lawyer has transmitted to the court prior to the court's ruling, the court may enter an order immediately suspending the lawyer, pending final disposition of a disciplinary proceeding predicated upon the conduct causing the harm, or may order such other action as it deems appropriate. In the event the order is entered, the court may appoint a trustee pursuant to Rule 28 to protect clients' interests.
  3. Notice to Clients. A lawyer suspended pursuant to paragraph B shall comply with the notice requirements in Rule 27.
  4. Motion for Dissolution of Interim Suspension. On [two] days notice to disciplinary counsel, a lawyer suspended pursuant to paragraph B may appear and move for dissolution or modification of the order of suspension, and in that event the motion shall be heard and determined as expeditiously as the ends of justice require.

Commentary

Certain misconduct poses such an immediate threat to the public and the administration of justice that the lawyer should be suspended from the practice of law immediately pending a final determination of the ultimate discipline to be imposed. Interim suspension is also appropriate when the lawyer's continuing conduct is causing or is likely to cause serious injury to a client or the public, as, for example, where a lawyer abandons the practice of law or is engaged in an ongoing conversion of trust funds.

The procedures set forth in Rule 20 are similar to those applicable to civil temporary restraining orders, except that an immediate interim suspension order does not expire automatically, but requires a motion for dissolution or modification. Since immediate interim suspension may be imposed ex parte following reasonable efforts to notify the lawyer, a lawyer suspended without a hearing should be afforded an opportunity to seek dissolution or modification of the suspension order on an expedited basis.

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