How Florida's attorney discipline process works - III

In a series of ongoing posts, we've been examining how those clients who have been injured by the actions of their attorney may seek redress via a civil lawsuit and/or the filing of a complaint with the Florida Bar Association.

Indeed, we've spent some time examining how the attorney discipline process works here in the Sunshine State, focusing first on the filing of the complaint and second on the forwarding of the complaint to a branch office of the Florida Bar. We'll continue this important examination in today's post.

Step three: Forwarding the case to a grievance committee

If counsel at one of the Bar's five branch offices decides there are sufficient grounds to proceed with a complaint, the matter will be forwarded to what is known as a grievance committee.

Grievance committees are comprised of volunteers from throughout the local community with at least a third of their membership comprised of non-attorneys. There is at least one grievance committee in each of Florida's 20 judicial circuits.

Once a grievance committee receives the complaint, it will appoint an investigating member who will be tasked with everything from interviewing witnesses to examining evidence. Once these efforts are completed, the investigating member will submit both their findings and a recommendation to the grievance committee.

After a review process that can last several months, the grievance committee is empowered to take any of the following steps:

  • Determine no probable cause exists to support an allegation that an attorney violated the rules of professional conduct, thereby ending the matter with no discipline
  • Propose diversion to a practice and professionalism enhancement program, a non-disciplinary measure that wouldn’t appear on an attorney's permanent record
  • Recommend either arbitration or mediation of a fee dispute, and issue a finding of minor misconduct (i.e., admonishment)
  • Delay review until the conclusion of a corresponding civil or criminal case
  • Determine probable cause exists to support an allegation that an attorney did indeed violate the rules of professional conduct and discipline is thereby warranted

If this final action is taken, a formal complaint will be filed by Bar counsel against the attorney with the Florida Supreme Court. While most of these cases are resolved, a lawyer may choose to contest the complaint. If this happens, the case will move to trial.

We'll continue examining the complaint process in future posts …

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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