MPRE-STATE MPRE EQUIVALENTS-PROFESSIONALISM-DUE PROCESS-DISCIPLINE-ADMISSIONS-AN “INTEGRATED BAR”
Bar Associations are integral sub-divisions (or enforcement arms) of a State’s highest court (usually called the “state supreme court”), predicated- in very large measure- on what is called the “Integrated Bar” (see footnote). The Bar and Bar prosecutors have absolute immunity from a civil lawsuit as do ALL courts and ALL judges.
Garden variety civil and criminal attorneys in the courtroom also have absolute immunity from civil lawsuits by adverse parties or witnesses for lying, defaming, cheating, and fraud (to name but a few possible civil claims). There are some interpretational differences among the states, but the basic precept is sound. This unconditional attorney immunity from civil lawsuits extends to pretrial activities such as taking depositions.
However, the offending attorneys can still be punished with criminal or civil contempt (be sure you understand the critical differences) for in-court or out-of- court bad behaviors and, upon referral by any state court judge to that state's Bar Association asserting questionable conduct by attorneys before the court, the Bar Association can then impose discipline such as disbarment. Bar discipline can be on top of sanctions which may have already been imposed by the “reporting court” for the exact same conduct. Virtually any breach of ethical rules or decorum "disrespects" the judicial system and shows disdain for the presiding judge.
--Pointedly, an oft-criticized aspect of an "Integrated Bar" is that membership is mandatory in order to practice, and an attorney must pay (under penalty of suspension) annual dues. Dues are mandatory, even if the Bar Association collecting the dues (which may engage in lobbying if at least vaguely connected to some legal idea) uses the mandatory dues to lobby the legislature on issues that a dues paying Bar Association member may find an anathema.
Some state legislatures do not delegate attorney regulation to a state supreme court, but this has never (or at least seldom) stopped a state's highest court from usurping what otherwise would have been legislative powers over lawyers. The courts justify this power grab based on the completely ambiguous (indeed subjective) legal fiction of "inherent powers" to regulate the lawyers that might come before the court. Some “highest courts” acquire jurisdiction over all attorneys simply by amending court rules (and only the courts, not the legislature, have jurisdiction to issue juridical ( more legal jargon- meaning "relating to the administration of the law") Rules.
There is an apt analogy here. After the US Constitution was enacted and the US Supreme Court was created (per Article 3 of the US Constitution), all concerned concluded that there was nothing in the "four corners" of the Constitution that gave the Supreme Court, or any lower federal court, power to determine whether a federal Statute was unconstitutional. Recognizing- simply from a practical standpoint- that this omission would allow invalid statutes (on their face or "as applied") to remain unchecked (no corresponding and concurrent check or balance), the US Supreme Court in the famous case of Marbury v. Madison (1804) decided to magically create this overarching power on the basis that the Supreme Court had "inherent powers" to invalidate legislation on constitutional grounds (later to include invalid executive orders, federal administrative rules and regulations, state statutes, state administrative rules and regulations, county or municipal ordinances, county or municipal administrative rules and regulations, and executive orders from governors and mayors).
FN- Integrated Bar Associations: In times past, Bar Associations were like labor unions composed of members (attorneys) with similar interests and goals.... particularly in maintaining a "closed shop". Membership was voluntary and, as such, the voluntary organization had no licensing powers, nor powers to discipline members. By the way, the concept of a "closed shop" for attorneys is "alive and well", particularly- it may be argued- in Florida and California which create their own Bar Exams that are much more difficult than the Uniform Bar Exam that most state Bar Admission organizations have adopted. Moreover, certain states may have much stricter rules than other states when an attorney licensed in one state wants to obtain a license in another.
Recognizing these critical regulatory limitations (gaping holes) in keeping lawyers in line, and as previously addressed, states enacted statues giving a state's highest court all powers to regulate all aspects of attorney behaviors (as to both lawyers acting in a legal advisory capacity AND those acting in their 24/7 private life- for example some disciplinary and admission arms of the highest courts often take a dim view of applicants or practicing attorneys whom previously sought bankruptcy protection or have a low credit rating, as it tends to establish the absence of financial competency... a lack of business sense that might harm clients down the road.
A favorite (ironic in every regard) Bar disciplinary rule is the one which states that it is a violation of Bar rules if an attorney violates Bar rules. So, in practice, an attorney might be suspended for 90 days for deviating from a particular Bar rule and then an additional 90 days for having violated "Bar Rules" in the global sense.
Remember that Attorney disciplinary proceedings have virtually no safeguards. It is not a criminal proceeding (so 90 + 90 is not double jeopardy), the rules of Evidence do not always apply or are applied sporadically (hearsay on hearsay on hearsay on hearsay may be totally acceptable), nor do the Rules of Civil or Criminal Procedure generally apply. Even the Federal courts, in the face of attacks against a state Bar on 14th Amendment Procedural or Substantive Due Process grounds, will not interfere with the power of State Bar Associations to discipline attorneys or, as part of the admission process, prevent highly accomplished law students and Bar Applicants from ever practicing their chosen profession.