Inactive-Disability Membership

When a lawyer does not have the mental or physical capacity to practice law, he or she may be transferred to Inactive-Disability Membership.  Inactive-Disability membership is defined in the WSBA Bylaws in Article III Sec. A.2. An Inactive-Disability member may not practice law, is not required to pay any license fees, and is not required to meet MCLE requirements.

Determination of Incapacity to Practice Law

The determination of incapacity to practice law is set forth in Title 8 of the Rules for the Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct (ELC). A lawyer can be determined to be incapable of practicing law as follows:

  1. A lawyer enters into a stipulation to transfer to inactive-disability membership according to the terms of ELC 8.5.
  2. A lawyer is found to be incapacitated following a hearing in a disability proceeding under ELC 8.3.
  3. As required under ELC 8.1, a court order was entered demonstrating the lawyer:
        a. was found to be incapable of assisting in his or her own defense in a criminal action; 
        b. was acquitted of crime based on insanity;
        c. had a guardian appointed for his or her person or estate on a finding of incompetency; or
        d. was found to be mentally incapable of conducting the practice of law in any other jurisdiction.

If you know of an order involving a lawyer under item 3 above, please provide that information to WSBA Membership Changes (

In most cases the transfer to inactive-disability is automatic after entry of an appropriate order under items 2 and 3 above. The only voluntary transfer to inactive-disability is through a stipulation with the WSBA under item 1. 

Concern About Another Lawyer

If you have concerns about the capacity of another lawyer to practice law, there are several options available as resources for you and the other lawyer.

  1. You may contact or refer the lawyer to the WSBA Lawyers Assistance Program.
  2. You may refer the lawyer to Membership Changes to see what other membership options are available besides active practice of law.
  3. You may file a grievance with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which may investigate the lawyer’s capacity to practice.

Your Own Voluntary Transfer to Inactive-Disability Membership

If you are interested in voluntarily seeking inactive-disability membership, please complete a Request for Stipulation to Inactive-Disability Form. Medical records and supporting documentation are required.  Submit the completed form and supporting documentation to Membership Changes, Washington State Bar Association, 1325 4th Ave Ste 600, Seattle, WA 98101 or by email to

The Association will review your Request for Stipulation to Inactive-Disability Membership form and supporting materials. Additional materials or information may be requested of you. Although not a disciplinary matter, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel  prepares the stipulation. After you and disciplinary counsel sign the stipulation, it will be presented to the Disciplinary Board for review.


Return to Active Membership and Removal of Incapacity

A lawyer transferred to Inactive-Disability must petition the Disciplinary Board for transfer to Active membership and has the burden of showing that the disability has been removed. See ELC 8.8. In addition, the lawyer must meet the same requirements of Inactive-Lawyer members returning to Active membership.

Any discrepancy or conflict between the information provided here and the rules and regulations set by the Washington State Supreme Court, or the bylaws and policies of the Washington State Bar Association, is unintentional and will be resolved in favor of strict compliance with the rules, regulations, bylaws and policies.