Federalism in Lawyer Discipline

The LADB has recommended the reinstatement of New Orleans lawyer Joseph M. Bruno. See In re Bruno, No. 08-DB-056 (filed Oct. 13, 2009). Mr. Bruno was suspended from the practice of law in Louisiana state courts more than two years ago for providing an improper inducement to a witness. The ODC objected to his reinstatement, contending that Mr. Bruno’s on-going federal practice during this period of state suspension constituted the unauthorized practice of law. The ODC took this position despite that an express order of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana authorized his post-suspension federal practice.

The Board, in a 5-4 decision filed on October 13, 2009, held that “[i]t is well settled that the federal courts have full authority to dictate who may or may not practice before them.” The federal courts’ “authority to grant admission is not subject to state oversight.” Id. at 18.¬†As a result, “Bruno demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that he did not engage in the unauthorized practice of law during his period of suspension.” Id. at 19. The matter now heads to the Louisiana Supreme Court for final resolution. (Disclaimer: Mr. Bruno was represented by blog author Dane S. Ciolino.)

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