The Administrative Board of the Courts is soliciting until May 14 comment about a proposed rule that would exclude from the state's Fee Dispute Resolution Program lawyers who have been disbarred, suspended or who have resigned from practice. The proposed amendment to 22 NYCRR §137.1(b) has been approved for circulation by the administrative board.
State court officials say that not expressly prohibiting disbarred, suspended or otherwise non-practicing attorneys may be inconsistent with other sections of the NYCRR. The statute already bars the application of the fee dispute resolution program to instances where lawyers are facing actions for professional misconduct or malpractice, where they have not rendered services for more than two years or where a request for arbitration has been made by an attorney who is not admitted to practice in the state.
The Fee Dispute Resolution Program, first established in 2001, sends disputes over compensation of up to $50,000 in civil matters to a three-arbitrator panel in what the law says should be an "informal" process to dispose of billing matters in a few hours instead of through protracted litigation. One of the arbitrators must be a lay person.
Court administrators said, however, that legal questions can become extremely thorny where attorneys who are disbarred or suspended become involved and that to expedite matters, it would be best to exclude such lawyers from being able to arbitrate such disputes.
The administrative board is comprised of the four presiding justices of the Appellate Division and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. Comments about the proposed change can be e-mailed to OCAPart137comment@nycourts.gov.