Attorney Grievance System

Attorney Grievance Commission


  Appointed by the Court of Appeals, nine attorneys and three laypersons oversee the attorney grievance process. Beyond general oversight authority, the Commission has the power to approve or disapprove the dismissal of a complaint or Statement of Charges, the termination of a complaint with or without a warning, a Conditional Diversion Agreement, a "commission reprimand," or the filing of a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action.


Bar Counsel


Appointed by the Attorney Grievance Commission with the approval of the Court of Appeals, this attorney investigates allegations of professional misconduct, prosecutes disciplinary proceedings, reviews escrow account overdrafts, investigates the unauthorized practice of law and investigates petitions for reinstatement. With one Deputy Bar Counsel, eight Assistant Bar Counsel and six investigators, this office provides the Commission with recommendations on the disposition of grievances and, in appropriate cases, files Statements of Charges with the Commission to initiate a peer review of lawyers' conduct, or files Petitions for Disciplinary or Remedial Action in the Court of Appeals.


Peer Review Panel


If Bar Counsel elects to file a Statement of Charges against an attorney, the attorney's conduct is subjected to a "peer review." Consisting of at least three members, including a non-lawyer, these panels conduct informal meetings with Bar Counsel, the complainant and the attorney to determine whether the lawyer is incapacitated or committed professional misconduct. Based upon the information obtained, the panel recommends action to the Commission, which it may approve or disapprove.


Circuit Court Judge


Unless the complaint is dismissed or otherwise resolved by agreement of the parties, Bar Counsel institutes more formal proceedings by petitioning the Court of Appeals for disciplinary or remedial action. Although the Court of Appeals has "original jurisdiction" over disciplinary matters, it appoints a circuit court judge to manage the discovery process, hold an evidentiary hearing, render factual findings, and recommend that the Court of Appeals take certain action.


Court of Appeals
The final authority over attorney disciplinary matters, the Court of Appeals reviews the legal conclusions and factual findings of the circuit court judge presiding over the evidentiary hearing, provides Bar Counsel and the responding attorney's counsel with an opportunity to take exception to the lower courts rulings and recommendations, and ultimately determines what sanction, if any, should be imposed.