Rule 19-731. Audit of attorney accounts and records.

(a) Action for Audit. Bar Counsel or the Trustees of the Client Protection Fund may file a petition requesting an audit of the accounts and records that an attorney is required by law or Rule to maintain. The petition may be filed in the circuit court in any county where the attorney resides or has an office for the practice of law. If the attorney has no established office and the attorney's residence is unknown, the petition may be filed in any circuit court.

(b) Petition. The petition shall state the facts showing that an audit is necessary and shall request the appointment of a Certified Public Accountant to conduct the audit.

(c) Caption. The petition and all subsequent pleadings and papers filed in the action shall contain a caption, “In re: Application for Audit of an Attorney's Accounts and Records.”

(d) Show Cause Order; Service. The court shall enter an order giving the attorney notice of the action and directing the attorney to show cause on or before a stated date why an audit should not be conducted as requested. The order and the petition shall be served in the manner that the court directs so as to preserve the confidentiality of the action.

(e) Response to Petition. The attorney may file a response to the petition and show cause order not later than the date stated in the order or, if no date is stated, within five days after being served.

(f) Order Directing Audit. After considering the petition and any response and upon a finding of good cause, the court may order any of the accounts and records required by law or Rule to be maintained by the attorney to be audited by a Certified Public Accountant designated in the order. The order directing the audit shall expressly require that the audit be conducted and a report be made in a manner that preserves the confidentiality of the proceedings and the attorney's confidential relation with the attorney's clients.

(g) Finality of Order. An order granting or denying a petition for an audit is a final order for purposes of appeal.

(h) Duty of Clerk to Preserve Confidentiality. The clerk shall maintain a separate docket with an index for proceedings under this Rule. The docket entries shall not identify the attorney against whom the petition is filed. Pleadings and other papers filed in the proceedings shall be stamped “confidential” and sealed in accordance with Rule 19-707 (b)(2)(I) at the time they are filed. The docket, index, and papers in the proceedings shall not be open to inspection by any person, including the parties, except upon order of court after reasonable notice and for good cause shown.

(i) Cost of Audit. Upon completion of the audit, the court may order all or part of the costs of the audit and of the proceeding to be paid by any party to the proceeding, except that costs shall not be assessed against the attorney if the audit fails to disclose any irregularity.

(j) Remedy Not Exclusive. Neither this Rule nor any proceeding under this Rule precludes any other remedy or cause of action while the audit is pending or thereafter.