Reinstatement to practice after disbarment or resignation with charges pending has been an option for all California attorneys since before the State Bar Act in 1927. Reinstatement is a difficult, expensive and time-consuming process for many attorneys; while many reinstatement petitions are successful, many are a waste of resources before the necessary planning and preparation for reinstatement begins. Early consultation with an ethics attorney can help you make the right decision.
Returning to active status is not easy. Under current rules, an attorney has to wait five years from the date of the disbarment or effective date of the resignation to apply for reinstatement. As part of the process, an attorney must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that they have been rehabilitated from the misconduct that led to the disbarment or resignation; they must show must show passage of the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE); that they possess current learning and ability in the law; and that they possess current good moral character. The last requirement is the most difficult, requiring a demonstration of “sustained period of exemplary conduct.” Also, the attorney must reimburse the State Bar for all disciplinary costs and Client Security Fund payouts. Reinstatement petitions are almost always vigorously opposed by the State Bar, represented by lawyers from the Office of Chief Trial Counsel.
Reinstatement to practice is a major project not to be undertaken lightly. Reinstatement in most cases requires a minimum of a year of planning and preparation before the petition is filed.
Attorneys, who are actually suspended from practice for two years or more, are typically required to establish their rehabilitation and current learning and ability in the law in a “mini-restatement” proceeding under Standard 1.4(c) (ii) of the Standards for Attorney Sanctions for Professional Misconduct. This proceeding is less onerous than a full reinstatement. The burden of proof is a preponderance of evidence, not clear and convincing evidence, as in a full reinstatement.