Kristen M. Renberg, PhD
In In re Brion, the supreme court held that the current procedures for disciplinary and reinstatement hearings for disbarred attorneys do not violate their due process rights. In 2009, a Hearing Committee found that Brion had violated his duties of diligence, communication, and handling client funds, and recommended disbarment. In 2010, the Disciplinary Board adopted the Hearing Committee’s recommendation for disbarment. The Disciplinary Board also issued reinstatement conditions, which included a forensic audit of Brion’s firm to determine if client funds were allocated correctly and refunded. In 2018, the Hearing Committee held a hearing on Brion’s reinstatement petition, in which Bar Counsel took no position on the petition. The Hearing Committee’s report determined that Brion had not met the reinstatement conditions related to the forensic audit and client repayments, and further, that he had failed to prove with clear and convincing evidence that his reinstatement would not be detrimental to the Bar Association, the administration of justice, or the public interest. In 2019, Bar Counsel adopted the recommendation of the Hearing Committee and denied Brison’s reinstatement petition. On appeal, Brion argued that Bar Counsel’s failure to take a position on his reinstatement petition’s merits constituted a denial of due process by depriving him of the opportunity to fully confront issues in his petition. The supreme court denied reinstatement, reasoning that Brion’s due process was satisfied because he had the opportunity to be “heard in court at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner[,]”and the procedure for reinstatement under Alaska Bar Rule 29(c)(3) does not require or prevent Bar Counsel from taking a position on a reinstatement petition. The court also noted that it is well established that the petitioner bears the burden of proof in reinstatement proceedings and Bar Counsel bears the burden of proof in disciplinary proceedings. Denying the reinstatement of a disbarred attorney, the supreme court held the procedures for disciplinary and reinstatement hearings do not undermine the due process rights of disbarred attorneys.