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(a) Who May Initiate. Bar Counsel may file a complaint on Bar Counsel's own initiative, based on information from any source. Any other person also may file a complaint with Bar Counsel. Any communication to Bar Counsel that (1) is in writing, (2) alleges that an attorney has engaged in professional misconduct or has an incapacity, (3) includes the name and contact information of the person making the communication, and (4) states facts which, if true, would constitute professional misconduct by or demonstrate an incapacity of an attorney constitutes a complaint.

(b) Review of Complaint.

(1) Bar Counsel shall make an inquiry concerning every complaint that is not facially frivolous, unfounded, or duplicative.

(2) If Bar Counsel concludes that a complaint is without merit, does not allege facts which, if true, would demonstrate either professional misconduct or incapacity, or is duplicative, Bar Counsel shall decline the complaint and notify the complainant. Bar Counsel also may decline a complaint submitted by an person who provides information about an attorney derived from published news reports or third party sources where the complainant appears to have no personal knowledge of the information being submitted.

(3) Unless a complaint is declined for one of the reasons set forth in subsection (b)(2) of this Rule, Bar Counsel ordinarily shall obtain a written response from the attorney who is the subject of a complaint and consider other appropriate information to assist in evaluating the merits of the complaint. If Bar Counsel determines based upon such evaluation that an insufficient basis exists to demonstrate misconduct or incapacity or that the overall circumstances do not warrant investigation, Bar Counsel may close the file without approval of the Commission. Otherwise, subject to subsection (b)(5) of this Rule, Bar Counsel shall (A) docket the complaint, (B) notify the complainant and explain in writing the procedures for investigating and processing the complaint, (C) comply with the notice requirement of section (c) of this Rule, and (D) conduct an investigation to determine whether there exists a substantial basis to conclude the attorney committed professional misconduct or is incapacitated.

(4) If a complaint is declined or closed by Bar Counsel, allegations made in the complaint may not be used in any disciplinary proceeding against the attorney. If additional information becomes known to Bar Counsel regarding a complaint that was declined or closed before docketing, the earlier allegations may be reopened.

(5) If Bar Counsel concludes that a civil or criminal action involving material allegations against the attorney substantially similar or related to those alleged in the complaint is pending in any court of record in the United States, or that substantially similar or related allegations presently are under investigation by a law enforcement, regulatory, or disciplinary agency, Bar Counsel, with the approval of the Commission, may defer action on the complaint pending a determination of those allegations in the pending action or investigation. Bar Counsel shall notify the complainant of that decision and, during the period of the deferral, shall report to the Commission, at least every 90 days, the status of the other action or investigation. The Commission, at any time, may direct Bar Counsel to proceed in accordance with subsection (b)(1) or (3) of this Rule.

(c) Notice to Attorney.

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, Bar Counsel shall notify the attorney who is the subject of the complaint that Bar Counsel is undertaking an investigation to determine whether the attorney has engaged in professional misconduct or is incapacitated. The notice shall be given before the conclusion of the investigation and shall include the name and contact information of the complainant and the general nature of the professional misconduct or incapacity under investigation. As part of the notice, Bar Counsel may demand that the attorney provide information and records that Bar Counsel deems appropriate and relevant to the investigation. The notice shall state the time within which the attorney shall provide the information and any other information that the attorney may wish to present. The notice shall be served on the attorney in accordance with Rule 19-708.

(2) Bar Counsel need not give notice of investigation to an attorney if, with the approval of the Commission, Bar Counsel proceeds under Rule 19-737, 19-738, or 19-739.

(d) Time for Completing Investigation.

(1) Generally. Subject to subsection (b)(5) of this Rule or unless the time is extended pursuant to subsection (d)(2) of this Rule, Bar Counsel shall complete an investigation within 120 days after docketing the complaint.

(2) Extension.

(A) Upon written request by Bar Counsel and a finding of good cause by the Commission, the Commission may grant an extension for a specified period. Upon a separate request by Bar Counsel and a finding of good cause, the Commission may renew an extension for a specified period.

(B) The Commission may not grant or renew an extension, at any one time, of more than 60 days unless it finds specific good cause for a longer extension.

(C) If an extension exceeding 60 days is granted, Bar Counsel shall provide the Commission with a status report at least every 60 days.

(3) Sanction. For failure to comply with the time requirements of section (d) of this Rule, the Commission may take any action appropriate under the circumstances, including dismissal of the complaint and termination of the investigation.

Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.