Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
Subcommittee considers conditional admission
The rule would allow a small number of applicants who may otherwise be denied a license due to recent substance abuse or mental health issues to be admitted on the condition that they complete a trial period without recurrence of the underlying issue.
By MATTHEW A. SAMUELSON
A subcommittee of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee is studying whether Colorado should adopt a new conditional admission rule. The subcommittee was formed in September 2015 to study the issue, and Advisory Committee Chair David Stark asked attorney Brian Zall, Chair of the Character and Fitness Committee, to chair the subcommittee. Meetings are held twice a month.
To qualify for conditional admission, any applicant will first have to demonstrate that he or she has the necessary character and fitness to practice law in Colorado. Conditional admission would allow a small number of applicants who may otherwise be denied a license due to recent substance abuse or mental health issues to be admitted on the condition that they complete a trial period without recurrence of the underlying issue. Conditional admission is not a method for an applicant who lacks the necessary character and fitness to practice law to achieve fitness to practice.
In the event an applicant has a history of conduct stemming from a substance abuse or mental health issue, the rule would require that the applicant show recent rehabilitation from the underlying issue by engaging in a sustained and effective course of treatment or remediation. The treatment or remediation would have to demonstrate the applicant’s commitment and progress, but may not yet be sufficient to demonstrate a track record or period of time warranting full admission. In these limited circumstances, a conditional admission rule would allow the applicant to be admitted with conditions designed to increase the likelihood of the lawyer’s continuing fitness and to protect the lawyer’s clients and the public.
Nearly half the states have implemented some form of conditional admission. Panelists at the ABA Conference on Professional Responsibility in May noted that the rule is intended for limited circumstances. For instance, of the 3,162 applicants admitted in Idaho since July 1998, just 54 were admitted under the conditional admission rule. Likewise, Arizona reported that it had only 214 conditional admissions since 1999.
Matthew A. Samuelson is Chief Deputy Regulation Counsel overseeing the intake division, attorney admissions and mandatory continuing legal and judicial education.