REINSTATEMENT FOLLOWING A DEFINITE SUSPENSION FOR NINE MONTHS OR MORE OR DISBARMENT
(a) Generally. A lawyer who has been suspended for a definite period of 9 months or more, or has been disbarred shall be reinstated to the practice of law only upon order of the Supreme Court. A petition for reinstatement shall not be filed earlier than 5 years from the date of entry of the order of disbarment. A lawyer who has received a definite suspension for 9 months or more may file the petition for reinstatement no earlier than 270 days prior to the expiration of the period of suspension. All records and proceedings relating to reinstatement shall be open to the public.
(b) Petition. A petition for reinstatement must be under oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury and shall specify with particularity the manner in which the lawyer meets each of the criteria specified in (f) below.
(c) Service and Filing of Petition. The lawyer shall serve a copy of the petition on disciplinary counsel and on the Commission on Lawyer Conduct and shall file the petition with the Supreme Court. The petition filed with the Supreme Court shall be accompanied by a filing fee of $1,500 and proof of service showing service on disciplinary counsel and the Commission on Lawyer Conduct.
(d) Action by Supreme Court. Unless otherwise directed by the Supreme Court, the petition shall be referred to the Committee on Character and Fitness.
(e) Notice of Petition.
(1) By the Lawyer. Within ten (10) days of the matter being referred to the Committee on Character and Fitness by the Supreme Court, the lawyer shall publish a notice of the petition in a newspaper of general circulation in each county in which the lawyer maintained an office for the practice of law when the lawyer was suspended or disbarred. The notice shall inform members of the bar and the public about the application for reinstatement, and shall request that any individuals file notice of their opposition or concurrence with the Committee within 60 days of the date on which the matter was referred to the Committee. The notice shall specify the date by which any response must be filed with the Committee. In addition, the lawyer shall, within 10 days of the matter being referred to the Committee, serve a notice on the complainant(s) in the disciplinary proceeding that led to the lawyer's suspension or disbarment. This notice shall contain the same information contained in the notice required to be published in the newspaper. The lawyer shall promptly provide the Committee with a copy of the newspaper notice and shall provide the Committee with proof of service of the notice given to the complainants.
(2) By the Clerk of Court. The Clerk of the Supreme Court shall place a notice in the Advance Sheets of the Supreme Court indicating that the lawyer has applied for reinstatement. That notice shall contain the same information required to be published in the newspaper under (1) above.
(f) Criteria for Reinstatement and Readmission. A lawyer may be reinstated or readmitted only if the lawyer meets each of the following criteria:
(1) The lawyer has fully complied with the terms and conditions of all prior disciplinary orders.
(2) The lawyer has not engaged nor attempted to engage in the unauthorized practice of law during the period of suspension or disbarment.
(3) If the lawyer was suffering under a physical or mental infirmity at the time of suspension or disbarment, including alcohol or other drug abuse, the infirmity has been removed. Where alcohol or other drug abuse was a causative factor in the lawyer's misconduct, the lawyer shall not be reinstated unless:
(A) the lawyer has pursued appropriate rehabilitative treatment;
(B) the lawyer has abstained from the use of alcohol or other drugs for at least 1 year or the period of suspension, whichever is shorter; and
(C) the lawyer is likely to continue to abstain from alcohol or other drugs.
(4) The lawyer recognizes the wrongfulness and seriousness of the misconduct for which the lawyer was suspended or disbarred.
(5) The lawyer has not engaged in any other professional misconduct since suspension or disbarment.
(6) Notwithstanding the conduct for which the lawyer was disciplined, the lawyer has the requisite honesty and integrity to practice law.
(7) The lawyer has kept informed about recent developments in the law and is competent to practice.
(8) If disbarred, the lawyer has successfully completed the examinations and training required by Rule 402(c)(5), (6) and (8), SCACR. The lawyer may take the examinations and begin this training no earlier than 9 months prior to the earliest date on which the lawyer may apply for readmission. The lawyer shall attach proof of completion of these examinations and training to the petition for readmission.
(9) If suspended for a definite period of 9 months or more, the lawyer has, during the period of suspension, completed and reported continuing legal education and legal ethics/professional responsibility credits equal to those required of regular members of the South Carolina Bar and is currently in good standing with the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization. The lawyer must also complete the Legal Ethics and Practice Program Ethics School within the year prior to filing the petition for reinstatement. The lawyer shall attach to the petition for reinstatement a statement from the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization confirming compliance with this requirement.
(10) If suspended or disbarred for conduct resulting in a criminal conviction and sentence, the lawyer has successfully completed all conditions of the sentence, including, but not limited to, any period of probation or parole.
(11) The lawyer has paid necessary expenses and compensation approved by the Supreme Court to the receiver or the attorney appointed to assist the receiver pursuant to Rule 31, RLDE, to protect the interests of the lawyer's clients for necessary expenses, or to the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection if the Fund has paid the appointed attorney under Rule 31(g), RLDE.
(12) The lawyer has reimbursed the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection for all claims paid on the lawyer's behalf or has entered into a payment plan with the Commission on Lawyer Conduct for reimbursement to the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection for all claims paid on the lawyer's behalf.
(g) Action by Committee on Character and Fitness. Within 180 days of the matter being referred to the Committee on Character and Fitness, a panel of the Committee shall conduct a hearing. If the petition for reinstatement is withdrawn after the start of the hearing, the lawyer must wait two years from the date the petition is withdrawn to reapply for reinstatement.
At the hearing before the panel, the lawyer shall have the burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the lawyer has met each of the criteria in paragraph (f) above. Any member of the Committee may issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of pertinent books, papers and documents. The willful failure to comply with a subpoena issued under this rule may be punished as contempt of the Supreme Court. Upon proper application, the Supreme Court may enforce the attendance and testimony of any witness and the production of any documents subpoenaed. The hearing shall be open to the public. Disciplinary Counsel and the Commission shall be allowed to present evidence and make arguments to the panel. The panel shall file a report with the Supreme Court containing its findings and recommendations.
The Committee on Character and Fitness may promulgate rules and regulations governing practice and procedure before the Committee. These rules and regulations shall become effective when approved by the Supreme Court.
(h) Decision as to Reinstatement. The Supreme Court shall review the report filed by the panel of the Committee on Character and Fitness. The Supreme Court may require the parties to file briefs or may schedule oral argument on the matter. If the Supreme Court finds that the lawyer has complied with each of the criteria of paragraph (f), it may reinstate the lawyer. The decision to grant or deny reinstatement rests in the discretion of the Court. In making this determination, the seriousness of the prior misconduct will be considered and the petition for reinstatement may be denied based solely on the seriousness of the prior misconduct. Unless otherwise ordered by the Supreme Court in the order denying reinstatement, no lawyer shall be permitted to reapply for reinstatement within 2 years following an adverse ruling upon a petition for reinstatement or readmission. Orders granting or denying petitions for reinstatement shall be public.
(i) Conditions of Reinstatement. The Supreme Court may impose conditions on a lawyer's reinstatement. The conditions shall be imposed in cases where the lawyer has met the burden of proof justifying reinstatement, but the Supreme Court reasonably believes that further precautions should be taken to protect the public. The Supreme Court may impose any conditions that are reasonably related to the grounds for the lawyer's original suspension or disbarment, or to evidence presented at the hearing regarding the lawyer's failure to meet the criteria for reinstatement. The conditions may include, but are not limited to, any of the following: limitation upon practice (to one area of law or through association with an experienced supervising lawyer); participation in continuing legal education courses; monitoring of the lawyer's practice (for compliance with trust account rules, accounting procedures, or office management procedures); abstention from the use of drugs or alcohol; active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous or other alcohol or drug rehabilitation program; monitoring of the lawyer's compliance with any other orders (such as abstinence from alcohol or drugs, or participation in alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs). If the monitoring or supervising lawyer determines that the reinstated lawyer's compliance with any condition of reinstatement is unsatisfactory, the monitoring or supervising lawyer shall immediately notify the disciplinary counsel. The disciplinary counsel may then seek a revocation of the reinstatement, a modification of the terms of the reinstatement or other appropriate relief by filing a petition with the Supreme Court. The disciplinary counsel may also seek an interim suspension of the lawyer pending the Supreme Court's consideration of the petition if disciplinary counsel believes the lawyer poses a potential for harm to the public.
Last amended by Order dated October 11, 2023.