In re Oliver

In In re Oliver, 97 Utah 1, 89 P.2d 229 (1939), the Court recognized that the actions taken against an attorney for failure to pay licensing fees differ from other disciplinary actions. In that case, the Utah State Bar Board of Commissioners ("the Board") refused to recommend that an attorney be reinstated after he was suspended for failing to pay his dues. 97 Utah at 3, 89 P.2d at 230. The Board based its refusal on Section 73, Rule VII of the Revised Rules of the Utah State Bar Governing Professional Conduct and Discipline. At the time, this rule allowed the Board to refuse to reinstate an attorney "except upon an affirmative showing to the satisfaction of the Board that the petitioner possessed moral qualifications and learning in general education and in law as required at the time for Admission to the Practice of Law in the State of Utah." Oliver, 97 Utah at 4, 89 P.2d at 230. Because Oliver had been discharged from his employment prior to his petition for readmission "for obtaining a railroad travel pass under false pretenses," and for later allegedly lying that the woman for whom he bought the pass was his wife, the Board felt he did not possess the good moral character necessary for admission to the Bar. Id. In criticizing the Board's action, the Court noted that membership in the Bar contemplates two distinct aspects: "(1) the status of being a member; and (2) the right to exercise the privileges of membership." Oliver, 97 Utah at 9, 89 P.2d at 232. The Court noted that "'disbarment' is the severance of the status and privileges. 'Suspension' is the temporary forced withdrawal from the exercise of office, powers, prerogatives, or privileges as a member." Oliver, 97 Utah at 10, 89 P.2d at 233. Hence, the Court reasoned that a suspension for failure to pay dues "terminates solely the right to exercise the privileges of the status of a member. The termination of that right for such reasons casts no reflection upon the member's moral qualifications." Id. The Court went on to state, "In Section 73, the reference of the petition for reinstatement to an investigating committee or to the committee of Bar Examiners has . . . application to either a disbarment or a suspension for conduct indicative of a lack of moral or a lack of legal qualifications." Oliver, 97 Utah at 10-11, 89 P.2d at 233. Thus, there would have been no basis under Section 73 to refuse reinstatement following a suspension for the failure to pay dues, because such a suspension was not indicative of either a lack of moral or legal qualifications. Rather, petitioning for reinstatement from a suspension for failure to pay licensing fees was "strictly a question of dues and penalties." Oliver, 97 Utah at 8, 89 P.2d at 232. Therefore, in Oliver the Court recognized that a difference exists between disciplinary actions for lack of the qualifications necessary to practice law, and administrative suspensions for the non-payment of dues.