Code of Virginia

Creating a Report: Check the sections you'd like to appear in the report, then use the "Create Report" button at the bottom of the page to generate your report. Once the report is generated you'll then have the option to download it as a pdf, print or email the report.

Code of Virginia
Title 54.1. Professions and Occupations
Chapter 39. Attorneys
11/28/2020

Article 6. Revocation or Suspension of Licenses; Disbarment Proceedings.

§ 54.1-3934. Revocation of license by Board.

The Board of Bar Examiners may, for good cause, revoke any license issued by it at any time before there has been a qualification under it in any of the courts of this Commonwealth.

Code 1950, § 54-72; 1988, c. 765.

§ 54.1-3935. Procedure for disciplining attorneys by three-judge circuit court.

A. Any attorney who is the subject of a disciplinary proceeding or the Virginia State Bar may elect to terminate the proceeding before the Bar Disciplinary Board or a district committee and demand that further proceedings be conducted by a three-judge circuit court. Such demand shall be made in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth in Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13 of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia. Upon receipt of a demand for a three-judge circuit court, the Virginia State Bar shall file a complaint in a circuit court where venue is proper and the chief judge of the circuit court shall issue a rule against the attorney to show cause why the attorney shall not be disciplined. At the time the rule is issued by the circuit court, the court shall certify the fact of such issuance and the time and place of the hearing thereon to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who shall designate the three-judge circuit court, which shall consist of three circuit court judges of circuits other than the circuit in which the case is pending, to hear and decide the case. The rules and procedures set forth in Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13 of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia shall govern any attorney disciplinary proceeding before a three-judge circuit court.

B. Bar Counsel of the Virginia State Bar shall prosecute the case. Special counsel may be appointed to prosecute the case pursuant to § 2.2-510.

C. The three-judge circuit court hearing the case may dismiss the case or impose any sanction authorized by Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13 of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia. In any case in which the attorney is found to have engaged in any criminal activity that violates the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and results in the loss of property of one or more of the attorney's clients, the three-judge circuit court shall also require, in instances where the attorney is allowed to retain his license, or is permitted to have his license reinstated or restored, that such attorney maintain professional malpractice insurance during the time for which he is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth. The Virginia State Bar shall establish standards setting forth the minimum amount of coverage that the attorney shall maintain in order to meet the requirements of this subsection. Before resuming the practice of law in the Commonwealth, the attorney shall certify to the Virginia State Bar that he has the required insurance and shall provide the name of the insurance carrier and the policy number.

D. The attorney, may, as of right, appeal from the judgment of the three-judge circuit court to the Supreme Court pursuant to the procedure for filing an appeal from a trial court, as set forth in Part 5 of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia. In any such appeal, the Supreme Court may, upon petition of the attorney, stay the effect of an order of revocation or suspension during the pendency of the appeal. Any other sanction imposed by a three-judge circuit court shall be automatically stayed prior to or during the pendency of the appeal.

E. Nothing in this section shall affect the right of a court to require from an attorney security for good behavior or to fine the attorney for contempt of court.

Code 1950, §§ 54-74, 54-75; 1956, Ex. Sess., c. 33; 1964, c. 201; 1970, c. 430; 1972, c. 103; 1980, c. 289; 1984, cc. 289, 703; 1988, c. 765; 1997, c. 238; 1998, cc. 339, 637; 2009, c. 287; 2017, cc. 40, 91.

§ 54.1-3936. Protection of client interests in proceedings pending disciplinary action.

A. If Bar Counsel has reasonable cause to believe that an attorney is engaging in any activity which is unlawful or violates the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and which will result in loss of property of one or more of the attorney's clients or any other person, Bar Counsel may submit an ex parte petition to the circuit court of the city or county wherein the attorney who is the subject of the petition resides or is doing business for the issuance of an order authorizing the immediate inspection by and production to representatives of the petitioner of any records, documents, and physical or other evidence belonging to the subject attorney or any professional partnership, professional limited liability company, or professional corporation with which the subject attorney is associated. The court may issue such order without notice to the attorney if the petition, supported by affidavit of the petitioner and such other evidence as the court may require, shows reasonable cause to believe that such action is required to prevent immediate loss of property of one or more of the subject attorney's clients or any other person. The papers filed with the court pursuant to this subsection shall be placed under seal.

B. If Bar Counsel has reasonable cause to believe that an attorney is engaging in any activity which is unlawful or in violation of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and which will result in loss of property of one or more of the attorney's clients or any other person, Bar Counsel may file a petition with the circuit court of the county or city wherein the subject attorney resides or is doing business. The petition may seek the following relief: (i) an injunction prohibiting the withdrawal of any bank deposits or the disposition of any other assets belonging to or subject to the control of the subject attorney or any professional partnership, professional limited liability company, or professional corporation with which the subject attorney is associated; and (ii) the appointment of a receiver for all or part of the funds or property of the subject attorney's law practice or of any professional partnership, professional limited liability company, or professional corporation with which the subject attorney is associated. The subject attorney shall be given notice of the time and place of the hearing on the petition and an opportunity to offer evidence. The court, in its discretion, may require a receiver appointed pursuant to this section to post bond, with or without surety. The papers filed with the court under this subsection shall be placed under seal until such time as the court grants an injunction or appoints a receiver. The court may issue an injunction, appoint a receiver or provide such other relief as the court may consider proper if, after a hearing, the court finds that such relief is necessary or appropriate to prevent loss of property of one or more of the subject attorney's clients or any other person.

C. In any proceeding under subsection B, any professional partnership, professional limited liability company, or professional corporation with which the subject attorney is associated and any other person or entity known to Bar Counsel to be indebted to or having in his possession property, real or personal, belonging to or subject to the control of the subject attorney's law practice and which property Bar Counsel reasonably believes may become part of the receivership assets, shall be served with a copy of the petition and notice of the time and place of the hearing.

D. The receiver shall, unless otherwise ordered by the court, (i) prepare and file with the Virginia State Bar an inventory of all case files under the subject attorney's control; (ii) notify in writing all of the subject attorney's clients of the appointment and take whatever action the receiver deems appropriate to protect the interests of the clients until such time as the clients have had an opportunity to obtain successor counsel, and in the case of a deceased attorney, notify in writing the personal representative, if any, of the deceased attorney's estate and the commissioner of accounts of the circuit court in which the deceased attorney's estate is being administered that the receiver may have a claim against the deceased attorney's estate for fees and costs of the receivership; (iii) identify and take control of all bank accounts, including without limitation trust and operating accounts, over which the subject attorney had signatory authority in connection with his law practice; (iv) prepare and submit an accounting of receipts and disbursements and account balances of all funds under the receiver's control for submission to the court within four months of the appointment and annually thereafter until the receivership is terminated by the court; (v) attempt to collect any accounts receivable related to the subject attorney's law practice; (vi) identify and attempt to recover any assets wrongfully diverted from the subject attorney's law practice, or assets acquired with funds wrongfully diverted from the subject attorney's law practice; (vii) terminate the subject attorney's law practice; (viii) reduce to cash all of the assets of the subject attorney's law practice, and in the case of a deceased attorney notify in writing the personal representative, if any, of the deceased attorney's estate, and the commissioner of accounts of the circuit court in which the deceased attorney's estate is being administered of any proposed liquidations of assets; (ix) determine the nature and amount of all claims of creditors, including clients, of the subject attorney's law practice; and (x) prepare and file with the court a report of such assets and claims proposing a distribution to such creditors and, in the case of a deceased attorney, notify in writing the personal representative, if any, of the deceased attorney's estate and the commissioner of accounts of the circuit court in which the deceased attorney's estate is being administered of the proposed distribution of the receivership funds. Upon the court's approval of the receiver's report, at a hearing after such notice as the court may require to creditors, the personal representative of the subject attorney's estate and the commissioner of accounts of the circuit court in which the deceased attorney's estate is being administered, the receiver shall distribute the assets of the subject attorney's law practice first to clients whose funds were or ought to have been held in trust by the subject attorney, then to the receiver for fees, costs, and expenses awarded pursuant to subsection E, and thereafter to the general creditors of the subject attorney's law practice, including clients whose funds were not required to have been held in trust by the subject attorney, and then to the subject attorney or the subject attorney's personal representative.

E. A receiver appointed pursuant to this section shall be entitled, upon proper application to the court in which the appointment was made, to recover an award of reasonable fees, costs, and expenses. If there are not sufficient nontrust funds to pay the award, then the shortfall shall be paid by the Virginia State Bar, to the extent that the Virginia State Bar has funds available. The Virginia State Bar shall have a claim against the subject attorney or the subject attorney's estate for the amount paid.

F. The court may determine whether any assets under the receiver's control should be returned to the subject attorney or the subject attorney's personal representative during the receivership.

G. This statute is declared to be remedial. Its purpose is to protect the interests of clients adversely affected by attorneys who have engaged in misconduct. It is to be liberally administered in order to protect those interests and thereby the public's interest in the quality of legal services provided by Virginia attorneys.

1985, c. 418, § 54-74.01; 1988, c. 765; 1992, c. 574; 1997, c. 239; 2005, cc. 184, 212.

§ 54.1-3937. Procedure for revocation of certificate of registration of professional law corporations or professional limited liability companies.

A. If the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or any circuit court of this Commonwealth observes, or if a complaint, verified by affidavit, is made by any person to a circuit court having jurisdiction where the alleged violation occurred, that any law corporation or professional limited liability company has willfully failed to comply with the applicable ethical standards of the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility or the applicable statutes governing professional corporations or professional limited liability companies, such court may issue a rule against such law corporation or law professional limited liability company to show cause why its certificate of registration should not be revoked. If the complaint, verified by affidavit, is made by the Bar Counsel or a district committee of the Virginia State Bar, the court shall issue a rule against the law corporation or law professional limited liability company to show cause why its certificate of registration should not be revoked. However, such rule shall not issue if the violation is (i) that of one or several persons only and the interest of justice and the protection of the public can be fairly served by appropriate disciplinary proceedings against the individuals involved, or (ii) that the law corporation does not have a valid certificate of registration.

B. If the rule is issued by the Supreme Court, the rule shall be returnable to the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond. At the time the rule is issued, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall designate three circuit court judges to hear and decide the case.

If the rule is issued by a circuit court or the Court of Appeals, it shall thereupon certify the fact of such issuance to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice shall designate three circuit court judges of circuits other than the circuit in which the case is pending to hear and decide the case.

C. Bar Counsel of the Virginia State Bar shall prosecute the case. Special counsel may be appointed to prosecute the case pursuant to § 2.2-510.

D. If, after notice and opportunity to be heard, the law corporation or law professional limited liability company is found guilty by the court of a willful failure to comply with the applicable ethical standards in the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility or the applicable statutes governing professional corporations or professional limited liability companies, the court may (i) reprimand the professional corporation or professional limited liability company, (ii) put it on terms to comply with the applicable law or ethical standards within a reasonable time upon condition that failure to comply shall constitute grounds for suspension or revocation of the certificate of registration or for other disciplinary action, or (iii) suspend or revoke the certificate of registration. If the violation is such that it can be corrected upon notice to the law corporation or law professional limited liability company and it is corrected to the satisfaction of the court, or if the violation is that of one or several persons only, the certificate of registration shall not be suspended or revoked if the interest of justice and the protection of the public can be fairly served by applicable disciplinary proceedings against the individuals involved.

E. The law corporation or professional limited liability company may, as of right, appeal from the judgment of the court to the Supreme Court by petition based upon a true transcript of the record, which shall be made up and certified as in actions at law. In all cases where a professional corporation's or professional limited liability company's certificate of registration has been revoked or suspended by the court, such revocation or suspension shall be suspended pending appeal.

F. In any proceedings under this section the defendant shall be entitled to a full and fair hearing and representation by counsel.

1974, c. 674, § 54-74.1; 1980, c. 289; 1984, c. 703; 1988, c. 765; 1992, c. 574.

§ 54.1-3938. Service of process in license revocation proceedings.

If personal service of process cannot be had upon the defendant in license revocation proceedings, proceedings may be had by order of publication on proper affidavit.

Code 1950, § 54-76; 1987, c. 567; 1988, c. 765.

§ 54.1-3938.1. Subpoena issued pursuant to law of another jurisdiction.

Whenever a subpoena is sought in this Commonwealth pursuant to the laws of another jurisdiction for use in lawyer discipline or disability proceedings, and where the request for the subpoena has been duly approved under the laws of the other jurisdiction, the chair or a vice-chair of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board, upon receiving an application from Bar Counsel, may issue a subpoena as provided in this section to compel the attendance of witnesses and production of documents in the county or city in the Commonwealth where the witness resides or is employed or elsewhere as agreed by the witness. The circuit courts shall have the power to enforce a subpoena issued pursuant to this section and to adjudge disobedience thereof as contempt. The privilege extended by this section shall be available only to those jurisdictions that extend a similar privilege for disciplinary proceedings in this Commonwealth.

2000, cc. 24, 188.