What happens if I file a grievance against a lawyer?
We review your grievance and may dismiss it if it does not raise a substantial question of misconduct. If so, you and the lawyer will be notified. Otherwise, the grievance is investigated. This includes notifying the lawyer of the grievance and requiring the lawyer to respond in writing to the grievance. After our investigation, we again review the matter and decide whether or not there is probable lawyer misconduct. If not, we dismiss the grievance with written notice to you and the lawyer.
What happens if the investigation reveals probable misconduct?
If we believe there is probable lawyer misconduct, the full Disciplinary Commission will review the matter. If the Commission believes that the lawyer has engaged in misconduct for which he or she should be disciplined, we file a complaint with the Clerk of the Supreme Court formally charging the lawyer with misconduct. If not, it will be dismissed, and you will be notified.
Is this a private or a public process?
It's a little of each. The investigation stage is confidential. Once a formal misconduct complaint is filed, the legal papers and the hearing process are open to the public. There are procedures available to protect confidential client information from public disclosure.
What happens after a lawyer is formally charged with misconduct?
A hearing officer is appointed by the Supreme Court to hear the evidence. The Disciplinary Commission must prove its charges by a higher burden than in a civil case. The hearing officer's responsibilities are like those of a trial court judge, except that the hearing officer cannot make a final decision in the case. The hearing officer makes a report on the case to the Supreme Court, which makes a final decision.
Will I be called as a witness?
We may need your testimony in order to prove the charges. It is important for you to keep us informed of your address and telephone number. Even if you are not a witness, you are entitled to know about the time and place of the hearing.
Does every lawyer discipline case go before a hearing officer?
No. If the Disciplinary Commission and the lawyer can agree to the facts of the case and an appropriate disciplinary sanction, the agreement is submitted to the Supreme Court for approval. If the Court accepts the agreement, the agreed sanction is imposed by the Supreme Court and the case is over. If not, there is a hearing.
What happens at the end of a lawyer discipline case?
The Indiana Supreme Court may find that the lawyer did not engage in misconduct. If the Court finds that there was misconduct, it orders a disciplinary sanction. The sanction depends on the seriousness of the case. Sanctions include:
- A private or public reprimand;
- Suspension from practice for a set period of time;
- Suspension from practice with reinstatement only after the lawyer proves fitness; and
- Permanent disbarment.
We let the grievant know how the case turns out.