For some time now, no one is quite sure how for long a time, when the Attorney Discipline Board would either grant or deny a suspended attorney’s petition for reinstatement, the form letter memorializing the decision included this stock language:
Effective Date of Panel Order. The order of the hearing panel becomes effective 21 days after the date of mailing of this notice unless a petition for review is filed by a party pursuant to MCR 9.118(A).
So, when reinstatement was granted, the petitioner would have to wait three weeks after the letter was mailed before resuming practice.
Conversely, if the reinstatement petition was denied, the three weeks would be tacked on to the one-year waiting period in MCR 9.123(0)(4) before a suspended or disbarred attorney could file another reinstatement petition.
Why should that be, asked an attorney whose reinstatement petition the ADB recently denied.
Good question, the ADB replied:
This statement in the Board’s form letter is not dispositive. It is not clear when this language was included nor does it appear to have been challenged in earlier cases. The instruction does not include a citation to an applicable provision in the Michigan Court Rules nor does it appear that such a policy has previously been considered or adopted by the Board.
So, the effective date should be when the hearing panel announces its ruling following the hearing on the reinstatement petition, the attorney argued.
Well, no, the ADB ruled:
With respect to petitioners request that the effective date should relate back to the panel’s ruling at the hearing on April 20, 2011, we are not persuaded that the Attorney Discipline Board or its hearing panel should deviate in this case from the long accepted principle that a tribunal speaks through its written orders and judgments, not through its oral pronouncements. See, for example, In Re Contempt of Henry, 282 Mich App 656, 678; 765 NW2d 44 (2009), citing Hall v Fortino, 158 Mich App 663,667; 405 NW2d 106 (1986).
In the instant case, the hearing panel was expeditious in the issuance of its written order and there can be no claim of undue delay in light of the issuance of the panel’s report on May 18, 2011, 28 days after the hearing.
So, when is the order effective? Here’s the ADB’s holding:
[U]nless specifically stated otherwise in the panel’s order, a hearing panel order granting or denying reinstatement is “effective” the date it is issued and mailed to the parties.”
Good call by the ADB.