Statutes of limitation are wholly inappropriate in lawyer disciplinary proceedings. Conduct of a lawyer, no matter when it has occurred, is always relevant to the question of fitness to practice. The time between the commission of the alleged misconduct and the filing of a complaint predicated thereon may be pertinent to whether and to what extent discipline should be imposed, but should not limit the agency's power to investigate. . . .If you can read Spanish, you can read my comment on the newly adopted statute in Puerto Rico here. In that article I argue that adopting the new statute does not make much sense for a number of reasons:
Discipline and disability proceedings serve to protect the public from lawyers who are unfit to practice; they measure the lawyer's qualifications in light of certain conduct, rather than punish for specific transgressions. Misconduct by a lawyer whenever it occurs reflects upon the lawyer's fitness.
1. There is no need to adopt a statute of limitations because there is precedent that holds that a disciplinary action should be dismissed if the state has taken too long in filing it placing the attorney in question at a disadvantage. Under that approach, cases are decided on a case by case basis depending on whether the passage of time has had a detrimental effect on the attorney's ability to defend against the allegations.
2. There is no logic in placing the statute in the Puerto Rico Civil Code. The statute of limitations should be in the rules for disciplinary enforcement. In fact, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court is currently considering a proposal to establish new rules. The Legislature should have deferred to the Supreme Court at least until it finished its revision of the rules.
3. The adopted time period of the statute is shorter than the average in the United States.
4. Although the statute does recognize an exception for conduct that constitutes a crime, it does not recognize an exception for cases of non criminal intentional conduct. In fact, the statute makes no distinction among different types of conduct.
5. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court is currently considering new rules for disciplinary procedures and new rules of professional conduct. The proposal for disciplinary proceedings has two options as to statute of limitations. The first on is not to adopt a statute; the second one is to adopt a 5 year statute of limitations with a series of exceptions. The drafters wanted to give the Supreme Court the alternatives and let it decide. The Legislature has now taking that decision from the Court. Some have argued this is a violation of the principle of the separation of powers.