In today's post, we'll conclude our ongoing discussion of the how the attorney discipline process works here in Florida. Once again, our purpose in this important endeavor has been to help shed some light on how those who have been harmed by the unscrupulous tactics of their attorney can seek redress outside of a civil lawsuit.
Last time, we discussed how the third step in the process is the review of a complaint by a grievance committee. Specifically, we examined how if the grievance committee determines probable cause exists to support an allegation that an attorney has violated the rules of professional conduct, a formal complaint will be filed by Bar counsel with the Florida Supreme Court and the matter taken to trial should the attorney elect to contest it.
Step four: Trial by referee
In the event the matter is not resolved via a consent judgment, the Florida Supreme Court will appoint either a county or circuit court judge to hold a trial. Here, the judge, acting as a referee, will hear witness testimony, receive evidence and ultimately issue a report outlining their findings.
Should the referee recommend guilt, he or she will also need to recommend the proper sanctions under the circumstances. Their report will then be filed with the Supreme Court.
Step five: Review
Once the report is filed with the Supreme Court, both the Florida Bar's Board of Governors and the accused attorney will be provided with 60 days to review and appeal the decision. In other words, either party can request that the Supreme Court review the matter.
Step six: Florida Supreme Court
The Supreme Court acts as the final arbiter, meaning it alone has the authority to approve or disapprove of any elements of the referee's report. This includes any recommendations concerning guilt and/or sanctions.
The state's high court will proceed with this analysis regardless of whether the BOG or the accused attorney have filed petitions, meaning it can move forward with its review sans consideration of arguments advanced by either side.
Here's hoping the foregoing conversation has proven informative. As always, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options if you believe you've been victimized by some form of legal malpractice.