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Self-Reporting and Reciprocity

llinois requires self-reporting by a lawyer of disciplinary action taken against that lawyers by other regulatory bodies, and permits (or in some instances requires) the ARDC to take reciprocal disciplinary action against the sanctioned lawyer. As examples,

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 761(a) states:

It is the duty of an attorney admitted in this State who is convicted in any court of a felony or misdemeanor to notify the Administrator of the conviction in writing within 30 days of the entry of the judgment of conviction.

The Rule then provides disciplinary actions the ARDC can take.

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 763 – Reciprocal Disciplinary Action, states:

If an attorney licensed to practice law in this State and another State is disciplined in the foreign State, he may be subjected to the same or comparable discipline in this State, upon proof of the order of the foreign State imposing the discipline.
Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3(d) states:
A lawyer who has been disciplined as a result of a lawyer disciplinary action brought before any body other than the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission shall report that fact to the Commission.

For those lawyers not admitted to practice in jurisdictions other than Illinois, the impact of these rules is limited. However, many lawyers find themselves practicing in areas that are subject to ethical rules in addition to those set out in the various state Rules of Professional Conduct. For example, Local Rule 83.50.1–58.9 of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois sets out the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers practicing in the Northern District, though these rules are essentially parallel to the Illinois Rules.

As long as the rules governing a lawyer are essentially comparable, e.g. based on the ABA Model Rules, there should be few problems in knowing how to comply. However, some rules may be different. An example is SEC Rule 102(e) covering suspension and disbarment from practice before the SEC. In addition to suspending an attorney who has been disbarred in any state, the Rule provides:
(1) Generally. The Commission may censure a person or deny, temporarily or permanently, the privilege of appearing or practicing before it in any way to any person who is found by the Commission after notice and opportunity for hearing in the matter:
(i) not to possess the requisite qualifications to represent others; or
(ii) to be lacking in character or integrity or to have engaged in unethical or improper professional conduct; or
(iii) to have willfully violated, or willfully aided and abetted the violation of any provision of the Federal securities laws or the rules and regulations thereunder.
. . .

The standard of engaging “in unethical or improper professional conduct” is clearly less specific than the standards set out in the ABA Model Rules, and harks back to the old Canon 9 standard of “appearance of impropriety.”

The vagueness of the standard was pointed out in the Matter of Michael C. Pattison, CPA (SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-14323: September 20, 2012), which states:
Thus, a proceeding under Rule 102(e)(1)(ii) does not necessarily involve conduct that is illegal, nor does it involve a situation where another adjudicatory tribunal has already made findings of misconduct and imposed a sanction. . . . [T]he Commission itself must make the determination as to whether the respondent's conduct fits within certain standards carefully defined under Rule 102(e)(1) … .

All this means is that lawyers should be aware of the ethical standards under which they practice, including the codes of each applicable state, court, agency and commission. Violation of these codes might not only affect your right to practice in one jurisdiction, but, due to the application of reciprocity, may effect your right to practice in other jurisdictions.