9th Circuit: Oregon District Court’s Disbarment of California Bar Member Who Could Not Sit for Oregon Bar Improper

July 20th, 2011

The facts of this opinion by Judge Tashima, joined by Chief Judge Kozinski, are somewhat complicated, but the bottom line is that the “revocation of an attorney’s membership in the District of Oregon bar on the ground that he is not a member of the Oregon State Bar” was not proper.

The District of Oregon requires that attorneys be members of the Oregon State bar. Corrinet could not sit for the Oregon Bar because he graduated from a lawschool that was not accredited by the ABA. A previous Chief Judge waived that requirement in 2002, but a Judge recently told Corrinet he was not eligible.

The 9th Circuit found jurisdiction when “district court suspends or disbars a previously admitted attorney.” With jurisdiction, the 9th Circuit found an abuse of discretion:

First, the judge failed to issue a proper order to show cause; therefore, Corrinet was not on notice of the purpose of the show cause hearing

Second, the district judge failed to adhere to the District of Oregon’s rules regarding the discipline of attorneys. District judges must adhere to their court’s local rules, which have the force of federal law.

Third, the hearing itself did not provide Corrinet with an adequate opportunity to present his case. It appears from the docket entries and the order of revocation that the district judge informed Corrinet at the hearing that his federal admission would not be revoked if he gained membership in the Oregon State Bar. This is not a satisfactory resolution

Fourth, the district judge did not give Corrinet an adequate opportunity to comply with the order to gain membership in the Oregon State Bar. For various reasons (including an unresolved dispute with the state bar), Corrinet was unable to obtain state bar membership in the time allowed to him. Given an adequate opportunity, Corrinet may yet be able to gain admission to the Oregon State Bar.

Judge Ikuta dissented, and found the Court without jurisdiction.

While the facts of this case evoke sympathy, they do not give us jurisdiction. But it is clear that the district court’s determination lacked the hallmarks of a disbarment: it was neither ethical nor disciplinary in nature. Accordingly, I dissent.

There was some discussion in a footnote about Oregon denying graduates of non-ABA accredited law schools from sitting for the bar.

Although the reason for this is unclear, it may have been due to Corrinet having attended a law school not accredited by the American Bar Association. See Supreme Court of the State of Oregon Rules for Admission of Attorneys 3.05(1) (2010). But Corrinet may now be eligible to sit for the Oregon bar examination. See id. 3.05(2) (providing that a graduate of a law school in the United States who has been admitted to practice in another state may, subject to certain conditions, sit for the Oregon examination if he “[h]as been actively, substantially and continuously engaged in the practice of law for at least three of the five years immediately preceding the taking of the examination”).

H/T ABA Journal