By James Lanham
At its February 25, 2022 meeting, the Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California voted to make available for a 45-day public comment period proposed new rules 5.480–5.486 of the Rules of Procedure of the State Bar of California to establish adjudication procedures in the State Bar Court for provisionally licensed attorneys who are accused of misconduct. The Provisional Licensure Program, established pursuant to Rule 9.49 of California Rules of Court, allows eligible 2020 law school graduates to practice law under the supervision of licensed attorneys. [see 26:1 CRLR 124–27]
According to the staff memo, although provisionally licensed lawyers (PLLs) are subject to discipline pursuant to Rule 9.49 of the California Rules of Court, the specific adjudication procedures involving PLLs have not been codified. Under the proposed rules, PLLs would be subject to the same disciplinary procedures as licensed attorneys, with a few exceptions. First, if a provisionally licensed lawyer is criminally convicted, and the conviction would provide any ground for interim suspension or involuntary inactive enrollment under existing rule 5.342, the Office of Admissions, rather than the State Bar Court, would decide eligibility to continue with the program and eligibility for admission to the State Bar. Second, proposed rule 5.484 would permit the State Bar Court to limit a decision involving a PLL to state whether the court would order a reproval or recommend greater discipline without specifying what that discipline would be since a PLL license terminates upon the imposition of any sanctions. Third, proposed rule 5.483 would terminate any pending allegations against PLLs on the date the Provisional Licensure Program terminates, but any pending allegations may be considered under the Moral Character Determination required for admission to the State Bar. Finally, proposed rule 5.486 would not require PLLs to pay costs related to discipline or monetary sanctions as licensed attorneys do.
The Public Comment period on the proposed rules closes on April 11, 2022.