The D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday ordered a full hearing on the recommendation of a split disciplinary board of the District of Columbia Bar Association that Charles W. Colson be suspended from practicing law for five years - not disbarred - for his Watergate-related crime.
In ordering the hearing, the court denied a joint motion by attorneys for Colson and the disciplinary board that it decide whether to accept the recommendation without seeing any briefs or hearing any arguments. Colson's attorney had said the former Nixon White House aide, who is now actively preaching Christianity, would accept the board's recommendation.
The court also named John Douglas, a former president of the bar association, to file a brief on behalf of the three minority votes on the disciplinary board who argued that "the seriousness of his (Colson's) misconduct" warrants disbarment.
The four-member majority was persuaded that Colson's new Christian vocation showed that he had rehabilitated himself and that he realized the seriousness of his actions.
He already has been disbarred in Virginia and banned from practicing law in the U.S. District Court here. But the D.C. Bar disciplinary board of followed the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, which suspended Colson indifinitely but allowed him to apply for reinstatement in 1979.
Colson pleaded guilty and served seven months in prison for obstructing justice by trying to influence Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon papers trial.