Last time, we discussed how those who want to hold an attorney accountable for their unprofessional conduct via a process that is both constructive and enlightening, rather than purely punitive, may consider filing a complaint with a local professionalism panel.
To recap, local professionalism panels are peer review programs that, while lacking the power to hand down formal sanctions and grievances for unprofessional attorney conduct, can still provide instruction and make recommendations.
We’ll continue our discussion of local professionalism panels in today’s post.
How are the local professionalism panels structured?
As we stated last time, the Florida Supreme Court directed all of the state’s circuit courts to create the local professionalism panels back in 2013. However, it left the task of establishing both their structure and the criteria for selecting panel members up to the individual circuits.
While this has resulted in some differences, there is still considerable uniformity. Indeed, local professionalism panels typically have between three to 18 members, all of whom must be in good standing with the Florida Bar Association and have practiced for a set number of years. Some local professionalism panels maintain a pool of local attorneys from which the chairperson can convene a panel to hear a particular complaint.
How are complaints handled?
In general, complaints of unprofessional attorney conduct filed against an attorney by a non-attorney (client), fellow attorney, quasi-judicial officer, judge or the Florida Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program must be in writing, perhaps submitted on a standardized form and/or subject to a page restriction.
The complaint will typically be reviewed to make a prima facie determination as to whether no action is merited, it should be forwarded to the ACAP or considered by the local professionalism panel.
If the latter option is selected, the chairperson will contact the attorney named in the complaint to discuss why the conduct is problematic, explain the local professionalism panel’s process and extend an invitation to meet with the panel at a future date.
We’ll conclude this discussion in our next post, exploring how the hearings conducted by local professionalism panels are typically conducted, the non-disciplinary solutions that can be made and the issue of civil liability.
If you have serious concerns relating to legal services provided, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.