In the course of the discussion, Peters called for more uniformity among the departments on describing sanctions.
For example, she noted the Third Department has "letters of education" and "letters of caution" yet "not every department has the same thing."
"From my point of view, if we have something called a letter of caution or education or admonishment, it should be defined the same way so wherever you're practicing law and somehow you find out somebody's admonished or cautioned, at least you would know what it was," she said.
Gonzalez noted that the First Department recently adopted the use of a "dismissal with guidance" as a disposition in a disciplinary action. Imposed without any disciplinary implications for the respondent, the disposition would be one step above outright dismissal of a complaint and below an admonition.
Diversionary programs, reserved for attorneys facing disciplinary action who were also coping with drug and alcohol abuse, are in place in the Second, Third and Fourth departments. In some cases, investigations or proceedings are stayed pending treatment.
No formal diversion program is used in the First Department. Gonzalez said in an interview that the First Department had disciplinary rules in place pertaining to attorneys with addictions but that he would propose diversionary programs "for the sake of uniformity" with other departments.
Peters noted there was a "move afoot to expand diversion to include mental illness" in Third Department disciplinary matters.
Likewise, Dillon recalled a case where an attorney facing discipline asked that the case be diverted owing to mental health issues. The Second Department had to deny the application because the department's rules pertained only to drug and alcohol abuse, he said.
Dillon later noted that "it might be wise for us to discuss the issue at the Second Department if we should change our rule and look into perhaps expanding" diversion to include mental health matters.
At one point the panelists addressed the question of whether regional culture played a role in attorney discipline.