Are You A Lawyer Or Judge Who Is Facing A Disciplinary Complaint?
Ethics violations and serious breaches of professional responsibility are grounds for disbarment, suspension, and censure. The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board is appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court and works with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to handle complaints filed against lawyers. The process is simple: If a person complains about their lawyer, the lawyer is given an opportunity to respond by letter. After reviewing the complaint and the lawyer’s response, if the Office of Disciplinary Counsel believes there are matters of fact that need to be determined and that the complaint, in fact, alleges an ethical violation, a formal charge is authorized by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board and a Hearing Committee is appointed.
Generally, extensive investigation is required to determine whether the lawyer did something he/she shouldn’t have done, didn’t do something he/she should have done, engaged in inappropriate conduct because of conflicts, fees, and hundreds of other potential grounds for violations.
After a process of discovery has been completed, a hearing is held by the Hearing Committee that issues a report to the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. The lawyer is allowed to be represented by counsel at the hearing and to present witnesses on his/her behalf and to file briefs and other responsive pleadings to whatever positions is taken by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Often lawyers find themselves in situations where they have clearly violated the Rules of Professional Responsibility, but the issue of “what should be done about it” is not so clear. Possible sanctions range from a private reprimand to disbarment. Regardless of the type of sanction imposed, action taken by the Disciplinary Board is entered into an attorney’s record, and can adversely affect future job opportunities and one’s reputation. Early intervention in the process and negotiations with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel are the best way to ensure a favorable outcome.
We also represent judges who face discipline from the Louisiana Judiciary Commission. That group is appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court and is made up of lawyers, judges, and lay people. The Office of Special Counsel investigates complaints against judges, and the initial proceedings are completely confidential. As a lawyer for a judge, we can take the position that actions of the judge were appropriate; or if the actions of the judge were inappropriate, that a private reprimand or other less severe sanctions are in order as opposed to public censure, suspension, or removal from the bench.
I have represented many judges before the Louisiana Judiciary Commission and have a good working relationship with the Office of Special Counsel as well as the Staff of the Louisiana Judiciary Commission. This does not mean they do me any favors — but they do listen to my arguments. These cases are as complicated and often just as time-consuming as a regular criminal case or a complaint against a lawyer. But the rules are particular and specific for judges, involve including specific rules of confidentiality; and the staff hired by the Office of Special Counsel are experienced lawyers, many of whom have been criminal prosecutors in the past. They are thorough, efficient, and not easy to persuade without good facts and good law, which is why judges should consult with a lawyer before they file any pleadings or responses to the accusations and allegations made against them.
If I represent a judge, he or she may not preside over other cases in which I represent people in their court. In almost every case I charge judges a fee for my representation. To do otherwise, in my view, is unethical for both me and the judge.
Get Help With Your Case Today — Contact James Boren
Facts can be interpreted in a number of ways. How you present your side of the story and recount the nature of events will determine the impression you create before the disciplinary board. James Boren has represented a number of lawyers and judges in disciplinary proceedings and understands how to best present each case.