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Under new bar rules approved last week by the D.C. Court of Appeals, attorneys facing misconduct charges will soon have the option to negotiate plea deals with the bar counsel. The rules, which will go into effect Aug. 1, provide for a “negotiated disposition” in which attorneys acknowledge guilt and accept a sanction rather than navigate the disciplinary proceedings, which can take several years. Under the rules, the bar counsel can file a petition for a plea agreement with the disciplinary hearing committee, which will hold a limited hearing and either sign off on the agreement or send it back to the bar counsel for revision. The appeals court has final say on the petition and, as with full proceedings, the court’s opinion will be made public. “The most important challenge for the Office of Bar Counsel is to handle these new tools in a way that’s fair to the public and fair to the attorney who’s being investigated and yet expedites the disciplinary process,” says Wallace “Gene” Shipp Jr., D.C.’s bar counsel. The rules also streamline some of the existing procedures, cutting the D.C. Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility out of reciprocal discipline proceedings and uncontested bar reinstatements.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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