State Bar Of Georgia Complaints And Grievances Lawyer
At the law firm of Warren R. Hinds, P.C., Mr. Hinds represents lawyers in State Bar of Georgia disciplinary matters. Warren R. Hinds provides trusted consultation and representation for issues including, but not limited to:
- Grievance stage issues
- Special master hearings
- Final disposition with the Supreme Court of Georgia
- Character fitness applications for State Bar of Georgia membership
- Bar reinstatement
Speak with attorney Hinds by calling 770-901-2698 today.
The ethical conduct of members of the State Bar of Georgia and those attorneys authorized to practice law in Georgia is governed by the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. More information available from the State Bar of Georgia:
- The State Bar of Georgia is authorized to maintain and enforce the Rules of Professional Conduct to be observed by the members of the State Bar of Georgia and those authorized to practice law in the state of Georgia and to institute disciplinary action in the event of the violation thereof.
- The Office of General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia receives thousands of written complaints each year. The state bar’s Consumer Assistance Program helps with resolving many dissatisfied client complaints prior to the filing of a grievance.
- Once a grievance is filed, the allegations are reviewed to see if they implicate one or more of the 61 Bar Rules that comprise the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. The comments accompanying each Bar Rule help describe and interpret the meaning and purpose of the rule.
Under Bar Rule 4-102, an attorney may be subjected to six levels of discipline for violation of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. The types of punishment fall under headings of either confidential or public discipline and include the following:
- Formal admonition [Bar Rule 4-102(b)(6)]
- Confidential reprimand [Bar Rule 4-102(b)(5)]
- State Disciplinary Review Board reprimand [Bar Rule 4-102(b)(4)]
- Public reprimand [Bar Rule 4-102(b)(3)]
- Suspension [Bar Rule 4-102(b)(2)]
- Disbarment [Bar Rule 4-102(b)(1)]
Most of the Bar Rules are phrased as directives or imperatives (i.e. “shall” or “shall not”), although some of the rules are aspirational (i.e. “may” or “should”). The “maximum” punishment for a violation of the various Bar Rules is:
- Disbarment: 33 rules
- Public reprimand: 21 rules
- No disciplinary penalty: 7 rules
The Four Stages Of A Bar Proceeding In Georgia
1. Review by Grievance Counsel [Bar Rule 4-202]
- All grievances, submitted in writing, are reviewed by the Grievance Counsel. As part of the review process, the grievance is typically forwarded to the attorney, though the attorney is not obligated to respond at this step in the case.
- The grievance is examined to determine if it accuses the attorney of a violation of any Bar Rules.
- If investigation does not show that grievance presents sufficient merit to proceed, it will be dismissed. If it appears to allege a violation of the Rules, the Office of General Counsel refer to the State Disciplinary Board.
2. State Disciplinary Board review [Bar Rules 4-204 through 4-204.3]
- Once the grievance has been passed to the State Disciplinary Board, one of the Board’s members will be appointed to handle the investigation. The Notice of Investigation will include a copy of the grievance along with a list of Bar Rules that appear to potentially have been violated.
- The accused attorney has 30 days to submit a response but only 10 days to challenge a board member on grounds of competency, qualifications or objectivity.
- A sworn response to the issues is required in the notice. When the grievance is severe, with the potential for suspension or disbarment, an order can be entered by the Supreme Court of Georgia to suspend the attorney until a response has been filed.
- Lawyers must cooperate, according to Bar Rule 9.3.
- If civil litigation is also pending against the attorney, the panel can defer action on the grievance until the civil matter is settled.
- A dismissal or dismissal with a letter of instruction [Bar Rule 4-204.5] is given.
- Case is referred to the Fee Arbitration Committee or Committee on Lawyer Impairment.
- A letter of admonition is issued.
- A State Disciplinary Board reprimand is issued.
- A Notice of Discipline [Bar Rules 208.1 through 208.4] is issued.
- A referral for filing of a formal complaint is issued.
3) Filing of a formal complaint [Bar Rule 4-204.4, 208.4, 209 through 213]
- A formal complaint is filed in situations when probable cause of the violation was found by the State Disciplinary Board or the Notice of Discipline, letter of admonition, or reprimand by the State Disciplinary Board was rejected by the attorney.
- The attorney has 10 days to object to the special master after they are appointed and the attorney has been served with the notice of finding probable cause, a petition for appointment of a special master, and the formal complaint.
- Thirty days are granted to answer the notice.
- A hearing is supposed to be held within 90 days after the filing of the answer.
- Within 30 days from receipt of the transcript of the evidentiary hearing, the special master makes findings of fact and conclusions of law and files a report with the Review Board. The report shall also contain a recommendation of discipline.
4) Review board and final disposition by the Supreme Court of Georgia [Bar Rules 4-214 through 4-220]
- The respondent and Office of General Counsel have 30 days after the report is filed to request a review by the Review Board or the matter will go directly to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
- Exceptions and briefs must be filed up to or before 25 days before the next scheduled meeting. The Review Board is not bound by findings of fact and conclusions of law made by a special master in their consideration of the record.
- There is no de novo hearing before the Review Board.
- The report of the Review Board is filed in the Supreme Court. The respondent and State Bar of Georgia have 30 days to file exceptions. The court has discretion to grant oral argument on any exception upon application.
- After the final judgment of disbarment or suspension, the attorney must immediately cease the practice of law, notify all clients within 30 days of the inability to represent them and the necessity for promptly retaining new counsel, take all actions necessary to protect the interests of their clients and file a certification with the court (within 45 days of the order).
- Quantum of proof: Clear and convincing evidence [Bar Rule 4-221(e)(2)]
- Statute of limitations: Four years from the commission of the act, although it may be tolled for an additional two years if the offense is unknown [Bar Rule 4-222(a)]
Petition For Voluntary Discipline [Bar Rule 4-227]
A petition for voluntary discipline can be submitted at any time during the proceeding in question. This petition is required to include admissions of fact and admissions of conduct in violation of Bar Rules. A specific discipline or a range of disciplinary actions can be requested. The petition may be filed with the Office of General Counsel, Supreme Court of Georgia or special master, depending on which stage of the proceeding has been reached.
- Recidivist Rule [Bar Rule 4-103]: “A finding of a third or subsequent disciplinary infraction under these rules shall, in and of itself, constitute discretionary grounds for suspension or disbarment.” Letters of formal admonition and State Disciplinary Board reprimands shall be considered disciplinary infractions for the purpose of invoking this rule. [Bar Rule 4-208] A letter of instruction does not constitute a finding of any disciplinary infraction. [Bar Rule 4-204.5]
Expungement Of Records [Bar Rule 4-224]
After a grievance has been filed, the record or any other evidence may be destroyed in specific situations, including:
- After one year (if the grievance has been dismissed after review)
- After two years (if the State Disciplinary Board or Supreme Court has dismissed the claim)
- “A lawyer may respond in the negative when asked if he or she has ever been professionally disciplined or determined to have violated any professional disciplinary rules if all grievances filed against the lawyer have either been referred to the Consumer Assistance Program and dismissed or dismissed with a letter of instruction.” [Bar Rule 4-224(f)]