A. An action for disbarment shall be filed as an original action with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. Upon such filing, the Arkansas Supreme Court, pursuant to Amendment 28 of the Arkansas Constitution, shall assign a special judge to preside over the disbarment proceedings. The special judge shall determine the proper location or locations in the State of Arkansas for the proceedings and shall arrange for a courtroom or other suitable facility in which all or part of the proceedings shall be heard. The special judge shall have discretion to determine the manner and location of all such proceedings and may designate one or more locations for all or part of the proceedings. All allegations of violation(s) of the Rules by the attorney, notwithstanding the situs of the alleged conduct, shall be heard in this proceeding. In disbarment suits, the action shall proceed as an action between the Executive Director and the respondent. Proceedings shall be held in compliance with the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Arkansas Rules of Evidence, and trial shall be had without a jury. A disbarment proceeding may be tried on the original petition for disbarment, any amended petitions for disbarment, and such other allegations and charges as to which the respondent has been given adequate notice and opportunity to defend. After a Committee panel votes to initiate disbarment, it shall not be required that any additional charges or allegations in the disbarment proceeding be considered and voted on by a Committee panel. At any time during the pendency of a disbarment proceeding, the Respondent Attorney and the Executive Director may submit to the special judge a joint petition for the approval of an agreed disposition of the disbarment action in whole or in part. Any such proposed agreed disposition entered into by the Executive Director shall also be approved by the Executive Committee of the Committee on Professional Conduct prior to submission to the special judge. If the joint petition is approved by the special judge, it shall then be promptly submitted to the Supreme Court for approval. If the joint petition is approved by the Supreme Court, such approval shall be a final judgment in the action. If the joint petition is not approved by the Supreme Court, the disbarment action shall continue before the special judge.
B. The judge shall first hear all evidence relevant to the alleged misconduct and shall then make and file with the Clerk a written determination as to whether the allegations have been proven. Upon a finding of misconduct, the judge shall then hear all evidence relevant to an appropriate sanction to be imposed, including evidence related to the factors listed in Section 19 and the aggravating and mitigating factors set out in the American Bar Association's Model Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, sections 9.22 and 9.32 (1992). See Wilson v. Neal, 332 Ark. 148, 964 S.W.2d 199 (1998).
C. The judge shall make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to the alleged misconduct of the respondent attorney and the imposition of sanctions, including the factors discussed in Section 13(B). Before filing the findings and conclusions, the judge may solicit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law from the parties and may submit a draft thereof to the parties or counsel for all parties for the purpose of receiving their objections and suggestions. The judge shall make a recommendation as to the appropriate sanction from those set out in Section 17(D).
D. The findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation of an appropriate sanction shall be filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court along with a transcript and the record of the proceedings, which shall include all pleadings, orders, and other appropriate materials filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. Upon the filing, the parties shall file briefs as in other cases. If any sanction is recommended by the special judge, the respondent attorney shall brief first, as the appellant. The findings of fact filed by the special judge shall be accepted by the Supreme Court unless clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court shall impose the appropriate sanction, if any, as the evidence may warrant. In imposing the sanction of suspension of law license, the attorney may be suspended for a period not exceeding five (5) years. There is no appeal from the decision of the Supreme Court, except as may be available under federal law.
Amended and effective March 29, 2018.