Disbar Law and Legal Definition

Disbar means to rescind a lawyer's license to practice law due to some illegal or unethical coduct. This sanction is usually imposed by the state bar association or the state's highest court. It is commonly initiated after complaints filed by clients with the court or bar association. Once disbarred, an attorney may not practice law before the courts in that state or give advice for a fee to clients. Sometimes a lawyer may be disbarred for a defined length of time, or may be disbarred permanently in more serious cases. Permanent disbarment may be imposed for reasons such as conviction of a felony involving "moral turpitude," forgery, fraud, a history of dishonesty, consistent lack of attention to clients, abandoning several clients, alcoholism or drug abuse which affect the attorney's ability to practice, theft of funds, or any pattern of violation of the professional code of ethics. Less serious or one-time minor offenses will generally result in reprimand, suspension and/or a requirement that the lawyer correct his/her conduct, show remorse and/or pass a test on legal ethics.

The following is an example of one state's rules dealing with disbarment:


(a) The Disciplinary Commission shall disbar or suspend a lawyer:

  1. When a judgment is rendered against the lawyer for money collected by him or her as a lawyer upon which judgment and execution has been issued and returned “no property found.” The record of the judgment, execution and return, or a copy thereof certified and authenticated in the manner authorized by law, is conclusive evidence thereof, unless such judgment has been set aside, reversed, or annulled.
  2. If the lawyer's conviction for a “serious crime,” as defined in Rule 8 of these Rules, has become final, regardless of the plea, in any court of record of this state or any other state, or of the United States, or of a territory of the United States. The record of his or her conviction or a copy thereof certified and authenticated in the manner authorized by law is conclusive evidence of such conviction. Whether a lawyer's conviction involves a serious crime as defined in Rule 8(c)(2)(B), (C), and (D) shall be made by the Disciplinary Board upon petition by the General Counsel. The Disciplinary Board may conduct a hearing to assist it in making this determination. If the Disciplinary Board determines that the conviction involved a serious crime, then the Disciplinary Commission will determine the discipline, upon further petition by the General Counsel. When the conviction is not final, the General Counsel may file a petition with the Disciplinary Commission, make a showing of good cause, and request that the lawyer be suspended immediately, pursuant to Rule 20 of these rules, irrespective of such lawyer's right to appeal conviction.

(b) If the crime for which the lawyer is convicted does not constitute a “serious crime,” as defined in Rule 8 of these Rules, it may nevertheless constitute grounds for discipline under Rule 2(b) of these Rules.