The Bar’s procedure for investigating and prosecuting complaints that are disciplinary

The Bar’s procedure for investigating and prosecuting complaints that are disciplinary

Florida Bar News

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There are a true number of things that can get a lawyer in hot water with The Florida Bar’s Lawyer Regulation Department. Some of the more common transgressions investigated by The Florida Bar include while any violation of the rules of professional conduct could warrant a disciplinary complaint

Theft of client funds,

Misrepresentation and other dishonest conduct,

Failure to comply with trust accounting rules,

Commission of a crime (in particular a felony),

Failure to communicate with clients,

Lack of diligence/competence,

Conflicts of interest,

Improper transactions with clients (for example, naming the lawyer as a beneficiary in a client’s shall),

Charging excessive fees,

Unprofessional conduct with opposing counsel and disrespect to the judiciary.

Lately, there has been a strong push from lawyers, judges, Florida Bar leaders, and the Florida Supreme Court to take a more aggressive stance against professionalism- related complaints. If trends continue, I would expect to see the prosecution of these types of complaints to increase in the years that are upcoming.

Stage 1 Complaint Intake & Preliminary Investigation

The process starts when a complaint is received by the Bar against a lawyer. Clients, opposing counsel, or judges may file complaints, or the Bar may discover potential misconduct through other means, such as media reports or notice of a bounced check from a lawyer’s bank.

Not all of the thousands of inquiries and complaints the Bar receives each are prosecuted year. After a complaint is submitted to the Bar, but before charges are filed, intake counsel conducts an investigation that is preliminary. Then the case is closed immediately without further action against the attorney if intake counsel determines that the allegations do not warrant discipline. However, if intake counsel determines that the facts alleged would constitute a violation warranting discipline, then counsel opens a file, notifies the accused attorney, and requests a response within 15 days. Over the past five years, an average of nearly 7,600 cases each year make it to this stage.

After receiving the lawyer’s response, intake counsel can close the file if the facts do not support going forward. However, if further investigation is warranted or if the lawyer fails to respond, then intake counsel will forward the case to the Bar’s branch office covering the judicial circuit where the lawyer practices. The Florida Bar has branch offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami.

Stage 2 Branch Investigation

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Once the branch receives the case, it is assigned to Bar counsel who will conduct a factual analysis of the case. Bar counsel will shut the full instance if disciplinary measures aren’t warranted. The grievance committee can divert the case to a practice and professionalism enhancement program in lieu of disciplinary sanctions for relatively minor transgressions, Bar counsel can recommend diversion, in which case. Diversionary measures can include needing the respondent to complete ethics sch l, a trust and accounting workshop, a stress administration workshop or an advertising workshop, come right into an agreement with Law workplace Management Assistance Service (LOMAS) for training administration assistance, or enter into a rehabilitative contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., (FLA, Inc.). Diversion is not considered “discipline,” which would stay on the attorney’s record that is permanent.

Finally, if Bar counsel determines there are sufficient grounds to go forward with prosecution, the issue is forwarded to a grievance committee in the accused lawyer’s circuit that is judicial additional research, and also The Florida Bar becomes the complainant/prosecutor in the event.

Stage 3 Grievance Committee Process

There are 81 grievance that is local across Florida – one or more in each one of the state’s 20 judicial circuits. Each circuit’s grievance committees are made up of lawyers and public members living for the reason that circuit. The grievance committees provide like a grand jury, and are charged with further factual research and determining whether there clearly was likely cause that a disciplinary violation happened.

The grievance committee chair will designate the actual situation to one of this committee members, that will serve as the case’s member that is investigating. The investigating member will make a recommendation to the grievance committee after interviewing witnesses and reviewing evidence.

Adhering to a hearing, the grievance committee includes a true quantity of choices. The grievance committee can

Find no cause that is probable or no likely cause with a page of advice, which finishes the case without any discipline;

Recommend arbitration or mediation of a charge dispute;

Problem a ch sing of minor misconduct, which include an admonishment;

Encourage diversion to a professionalism and practice improvement program;

Suggest deferral of grievance committee review until the conclusion of a synchronous criminal or civil case against the accused; and

Find likely cause, which delivers the case to test.

Grievance committee investigations takes from three to 6 months, plus in some full cases even longer, with regards to the complexity regarding the situation.

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