How Florida's attorney discipline process works

When a person is fairly confident that their attorney has engaged in some manner of malfeasance, they have several options at their disposal. These include pursuing a civil lawsuit if they've suffered some type of financial harm, and/or filing a complaint against the attorney.

While most people are willing to consider the former option, they may be more reluctant to pursue the latter. Indeed, some of this likely stems from the belief that unscrupulous attorneys are seldom held accountable and, even if they are, the punishment is rarely serious. 

The reality, however, is that the Florida Supreme Court can -- and does -- discipline attorneys quite regularly. From 2011 to 2016, the state's high court disciplined over 1,700 licensed attorneys, including 258 reprimands, 820 license suspensions and 430 disbarments/revocations.

In light of this fact, those who find themselves in this unenviable position may want to learn more about how the attorney discipline process works here in the Sunshine State.

Step one: Filing the complaint

Clients, opposing counsel, judges or others file complaints with the Florida Bar Association's Attorney Consumer Assistance Program. Here, intake counsel will conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the allegations made constitute a violation of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.

If intake counsel determines that they do not, the matter will be closed. However, if they decide the allegations made would indeed constitute a violation of the Bar Rules, a file will be opened, and the attorney named in the compliant will be notified and given 15 days to provide a response.

While the case can be closed by intake counsel after receiving and evaluating the response, they may also decide to forward the case to one of the Bar's five branch offices. The same result will follow if the attorney fails to respond with the 15 days.

We'll continue examining the complaint process in our next post …

Please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about the law and your options if you believe you've been victimized by some manner of legal malpractice.

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