Last week, we began discussing how aggrieved clients who have suffered some manner of harm owing to the conduct of their attorney have two options: pursuing a civil lawsuit and/or filing a complaint with the Florida Bar Association.
We also discussed how many people believe that the second option is something of a waste of time and energy given that it seldom results in meaningful punishment. Having established that is far from the reality, we'll continue examining how the attorney discipline process works here in the Sunshine State.
Step two: Forwarding the case to a branch office of the Florida Bar
To recap, if intake counsel with the Florida Bar Association's Attorney Consumer Assistance Program decides that a complaint merits further review or the attorney named in the complaint fails to provide a response in 15 days, the case will be forwarded to one of the Bar's five branch offices located in the judicial district in which the attorney practices.
These branch offices, located in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale, typically receive about a third of the cases initially investigated by ACAP.
At the branch office, the case will be assigned to Bar counsel, who will conduct then their own investigation. Once this investigation is complete, several possible routes may be pursued:
- Bar counsel can close the case if they determine no disciplinary steps are warranted.
- Bar counsel can classify the violation as minor and recommend diversionary measures (ethics school, etc.), which would not go on the attorney's permanent record
- Bar counsel can determine there are grounds to proceed and forward the complaint to the grievance committee in the attorney's judicial circuit
If Bar counsel elects to forward the complaint to a grievance committee, it's at this juncture that the Florida Bar officially becomes the complainant or prosecutor.
We'll continue examining the complaint process in future posts …
If you believe you've been victimized by some manner of legal malpractice, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about the law and your options.