Disbar Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Disbar, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Disbar?

v. Improper conduct which results in the removal of an attorney from practice which prohibits the attorney from practicing law before the courts in a state or from advising clients for a fee. The State Bar Association or the highest state court typically invokes this penalty. Conduct which would qualify for disbarment include conviction for 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 affects the attorney’s ability to practice, theft of funds, or a pattern of violation of the professional code of ethics. Reprimand, suspension and/or requirement that the lawyer correct his/her conduct and illustrate remorse and/or pass a test on legal ethics are imposed for singular incidents, other than felony conviction.

History and Meaning of Disbar

Disbar is a term used in the legal profession to refer to the removal of an attorney from the practice of law. Disbarment is typically imposed as a penalty for improper conduct that renders an attorney unfit to practice law before the courts in a state or advise clients for a fee. The highest state court or state bar association typically invokes this penalty.

In the US, the first recorded instance of disbarment was in New York in 1778. The term's usage has evolved over time to refer to the most serious public censure of an attorney, involving the complete revocation of their right to practice law. Disbarment is always the final penalty in a comprehensive system of punishment that includes reprimand, suspension, and fines.

Examples of Disbar

  1. The attorney was disbarred after being found guilty of embezzling funds from clients.
  2. The state bar association disbarred the lawyer for repeatedly failing to communicate with clients and neglecting their cases.
  3. The attorney was disbarred on the grounds of moral turpitude.
  4. Following a conviction for a felony crime, the attorney was disbarred from the profession.
  5. The lawyer was disbarred for engaging in a sexual relationship with a client.

Legal Terms Similar to Disbar

  • Censure: A formal, public reprimand of an attorney for improper conduct or behavior.
  • Suspension: The temporary revocation of an attorney's license to practice law for a specific period.
  • Misconduct: Any violation of the ethical standards or rules of conduct for attorneys.
  • Malpractice: Negligent or improper conduct by a professional, in this case, an attorney or lawyer.