37 CFR § 11.25 - Interim suspension and discipline based upon conviction of committing a serious crime.

§ 11.25 Interim suspension and discipline based upon conviction of committing a serious crime.

(a) Notice to the OED Director. Upon being convicted of a crime in a court of the United States, any State, or a foreign country, a practitioner subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Office shall notify the OED Director in writing of the same within 30 days from the date of such conviction. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, a practitioner is not required to notify the OED Director of a traffic offense that did not involve the use of alcohol or a controlled substance, did not result in a fine in excess of $300, and did not result in the imposition of any other punishment. Upon being advised or learning that a practitioner subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Office has been convicted of a crime, the OED Director shall make a preliminary determination whether the crime constitutes a serious crime warranting interim suspension. If the crime is a serious crime, the OED Director may file with the USPTO Director proof of the conviction and request the USPTO Director to issue a notice and order set forth in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. The OED Director may, in addition, without Committee on Discipline authorization, file with the USPTO Director a complaint complying with § 11.34 against the practitioner predicated upon the conviction of a serious crime. If the crime is not a serious crime, the OED Director may process the matter in the same manner as any other information or evidence of a possible violation of any USPTO Rule of Professional Conduct coming to the attention of the OED Director.

(b) Interim suspension and referral for disciplinary proceeding. All proceedings under this section shall be handled as expeditiously as possible.

(1) The USPTO Director has authority to place a practitioner on interim suspension after hearing the request for interim suspension on the documentary record.

(2) Notification served on practitioner. Upon receipt of a certified copy of the court record, docket entry, or judgment demonstrating that the practitioner has been so convicted, together with the complaint, the USPTO Director shall issue a notice directed to the practitioner in accordance with § 11.35, and to the OED Director, containing:

(i) A copy of the court record, docket entry, or judgment of conviction;

(ii) A copy of the complaint; and

(iii) An order directing the practitioner to file a response with the USPTO Director and the OED Director, within forty days of the date of the notice, establishing that there is a genuine issue of material fact that the crime did not constitute a serious crime, the practitioner is not the individual found guilty of the crime, or that the conviction was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process.

(3) Hearing and final order on request for interim suspension. The request for interim suspension shall be heard by the USPTO Director on the documentary record unless the USPTO Director determines that the practitioner's response establishes by clear and convincing evidence a genuine issue of material fact that: The crime did not constitute a serious crime, the practitioner is not the person who committed the crime, or the conviction was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process. The USPTO Director may order the OED Director or the practitioner to supplement the record with further information or argument. If the USPTO Director determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the USPTO Director shall enter an appropriate final order regarding the OED Director's request for interim suspension regardless of the pendency of any criminal appeal. If the USPTO Director is unable to make such determination because there is a genuine issue of material fact, the USPTO Director shall enter a final order dismissing the request and enter a further order referring the complaint to a hearing officer for a hearing and entry of an initial decision in accordance with the other rules in this part and directing the practitioner to file an answer to the complaint in accordance with § 11.36.

(4) Termination. The USPTO Director has authority to terminate an interim suspension. In the interest of justice, the USPTO Director may terminate an interim suspension at any time upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances, after affording the OED Director an opportunity to respond to the request to terminate interim suspension.

(5) Referral for disciplinary proceeding. Upon entering a final order imposing interim suspension, the USPTO Director shall refer the complaint to a hearing officer to conduct a formal disciplinary proceeding. The formal disciplinary proceeding, however, shall be stayed by the hearing officer until all direct appeals from the conviction are concluded. Review of the initial decision of the hearing officer shall be pursuant to § 11.55.

(c) Proof of conviction and guilt -

(1) Conviction in the United States. For purposes of a hearing for interim suspension and a hearing on the formal charges in a complaint filed as a consequence of the conviction, a certified copy of the court record, docket entry, or judgment of conviction in a court of the United States or any State shall establish a prima facie case by clear and convincing evidence that the practitioner was convicted of a serious crime and that the conviction was not lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process.

(2) Conviction in a foreign country. For purposes of a hearing for interim suspension and on the formal charges filed as a result of a finding of guilt, a certified copy of the court record, docket entry, or judgment of conviction in a court of a foreign country shall establish a prima facie case by clear and convincing evidence that the practitioner was convicted of a serious crime and that the conviction was not lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process. However, nothing in this paragraph shall preclude the practitioner from demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence in any hearing on a request for interim suspension there is a genuine issue of material fact to be considered when determining if the elements of a serious crime were committed in violating the criminal law of the foreign country and whether a disciplinary sanction should be entered.

(d) Crime determined not to be serious crime. If the USPTO Director determines that the crime is not a serious crime, the complaint shall be referred to the OED Director for investigation under § 11.22 and processing as is appropriate.

(e) Reinstatement -

(1) Upon reversal or setting aside a finding of guilt or a conviction. If a practitioner suspended solely under the provisions of paragraph (b) of this section demonstrates that the underlying finding of guilt or conviction of serious crimes has been reversed or vacated, the order for interim suspension shall be vacated and the practitioner shall be placed on active status unless the finding of guilt was reversed or the conviction was set aside with respect to less than all serious crimes for which the practitioner was found guilty or convicted. The vacating of the interim suspension will not terminate any other disciplinary proceeding then pending against the practitioner, the disposition of which shall be determined by the hearing officer before whom the matter is pending, on the basis of all available evidence other than the finding of guilt or conviction.

(2) Following conviction of a serious crime. Any practitioner convicted of a serious crime and disciplined in whole or in part in regard to that conviction, may petition for reinstatement under the conditions set forth in § 11.60 no earlier than after completion of service of his or her sentence, or after completion of service under probation or parole, whichever is later.

(f) Notice to clients and others of interim suspension. An interim suspension under this section shall constitute a suspension of the practitioner for the purpose of § 11.58.

[73 FR 47689, Aug. 14, 2008, as amended at 78 FR 20200, Apr. 3, 2013; 86 FR 28458, May 26, 2021]

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