Filing a Complaint by otj26205


									  This brochure is for anyone who is con-         State Bar does not charge you fees or costs            • Resolve disputed lawyer’s fees (see “Fee
sidering filing a complaint against a lawyer      for filing your complaint against an Alabama         Disputes”);
with the Alabama State Bar. It explains           lawyer.                                                • Punish the rude behavior of a lawyer;
how and where to file a complaint against                                                                • Assist with complaints against sitting
an Alabama lawyer. The Supreme Court of           What Happens After You File a                        judges;
Alabama, through the Alabama State Bar,           Complaint                                              • Address allegations that lawyers acting as
regulates lawyer conduct in this state. Filing       All complaints filed with the Alabama State       guardians ad litem have taken positions with
a complaint is a very serious matter.             Bar are reviewed by Bar counsel to deter-            which you disagree; or
                                                  mine if the complaint has sufficient merit to          • Resolve disputes over debts of a lawyer,
Filing a Complaint                                warrant a full investigation. In most cases, a       such as a lawyer’s failure to pay a bill to you.
   All lawyers who practice law in Alabama        copy of your complaint is sent to the lawyer           Not all allegations of misconduct amount
must be members of the Alabama State Bar.         for a response. Once the lawyer’s response is        to a violation of an ethics rule. An honest dis-
The Alabama State Bar’s grievance system          received, your complaint and his response will       agreement between a lawyer and client about
was established by the Supreme Court of           be reviewed again by Bar counsel to determine        the handling of a case is not misconduct. A
Alabama to enforce uniform standards of           what further action, if any, should be taken.        mistake or error of judgment is not a cause
professional conduct for lawyers. Filing a        You will be sent written notification of the         for discipline.
complaint should not take the place of com-       decision. If it is determined that there is insuf-
municating with your lawyer in an attempt         ficient evidence to merit a formal investigation,    What Happens If It Is Determined
to resolve differences. If your problem is        then you will be notified. However, if there is      That a Lawyer Violated an Ethics Rule
the result of a misunderstanding or a break-      sufficient information to establish that an eth-       If the Disciplinary Commission determines
down in communication, the problem may            ics violation possibly occurred, a formal inves-     that the lawyer has violated an ethics rule,
be solved by a candid talk with your lawyer.      tigation will be opened. Some investigations         they may impose discipline. The lawyer is
If you have made a sincere effort to resolve      will be sent to local Bar grievance committees,      notified of the Commission’s decision. The
your problem and still believe that the lawyer    and others will be investigated by the Bar.          lawyer is normally given 14 days to: (1)
may have violated an ethics rule, file your          The processing of most formal investiga-          accept the proposed discipline; (2) request
complaint. A complaint should not be made         tions at this stage can take anywhere from           reconsideration upon submitting additional
lightly or used to try to gain an advantage       six to eighteen months, depending on the             evidence; or (3) demand formal charges and a
in your transactions with a lawyer. A lawyer      complexity of the situation. You will be noti-       hearing.
who is accused of misconduct suffers whether      fied in writing about the outcome of your
or not he is found to be at fault. More than a    complaint. You may be contacted during the           How a Lawyer May Be Disciplined
claim of misconduct is needed to justify disci-   investigation. If a hearing is held before the         Probation - The lawyer will be monitored,
pline. It takes evidence—proof.                   Disciplinary Board, you may be required to           may be required to report to a disciplinary
                                                  attend and testify.                                  authority, and his practice may be restricted
How To File a Complaint                                                                                during a specific period of time.
  After you have completed reading this           What the Complaint Process                             Private reprimand - A written reprimand,
brochure, you must submit your complaint          Cannot Do                                            signed by the President of the Alabama State
by using the enclosed Complaint Form.               • Recover money damages;                           Bar is sent to the lawyer and placed in the
Additional pages may be attached. Attach            • Set aside a criminal conviction;                 lawyer’s permanent file.
copies of any documents that support your           • Make the lawyer take action you wish               Public reprimand - There are two types. In
allegations. Please do not send original docu-    him or her to take;                                  both, the lawyer must appear before a public
ments. The Bar will not copy your docu-             • Offer assistance with your pending legal         meeting of the Board of Bar Commissioners,
ments and return them to you. The complaint       matter or provide legal advice;                      where the reprimand will be read to him
should be signed, in the presence of, and           • Substitute for other civil or criminal           by the President of the Alabama State Bar.
notarized by a notary public. The Alabama         remedies;                                            However, one type of public reprimand will
be published in both the local newspaper           ment and reimbursement is limited. The Fund
where the lawyer practices and The Alabama         is a remedy of last resort for those who can-
Lawyer (a publication that is distributed to all
members of the Alabama State Bar). The other
type of public reprimand is published only in
                                                   not obtain reimbursement from other sources.
                                                   It you wish to make application to this fund
                                                   please contact the Alabama State Bar for addi-
The Alabama Lawyer. These reprimands are           tional information.
also placed in the lawyer’s permanent file.
  Suspension - The lawyer is suspended             Who Will Know About Your Complaint
from practicing law for a specific amount          and the Information Provided to the
of time, ranging from 45 days to five years.
Depending on the length of suspension, law-
yers may be reinstated to practice law with-
                                                     In most instances, the lawyer will be sent
                                                   a copy of your complaint and copies of the
out a hearing. In some cases a lawyer may          information you provide. The rules of the
not resume the practice of law until reinstated    Supreme Court of Alabama require that the
after public notice and a hearing.                 Alabama State Bar treat all inquiries and
  Disbarment - The lawyer is disbarred. A          complaints filed with the Office of General
disbarment is for a period of five years. The      Counsel as confidential, unless discipline
lawyer must petition the Bar for reinstatement     has been imposed. However, during the
in order to be allowed to resume the practice      course of the investigation, the investigator
of law.                                            may need to contact witnesses for additional
Fee Disputes                                         You, as the complainant, have absolute
  Fee disputes are not handled by the              immunity from suit for filing your complaint.
Alabama State Bar’s grievance system               Witnesses who may be required to testify at a
because fee disputes generally do not involve      hearing also have immunity from suit result-
questions of ethics or professional conduct.       ing from their participation in the grievance
However, there are other methods avail-            process.
able to resolve these problems, including the        Your complaint will receive the Alabama
Alabama State Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution         State Bar’s prompt attention and every
Program. Requests for forms should be sub-         attempt will be made to resolve your com-
mitted in writing to: The Alabama State Bar        plaint in a manner which is fair to both you
Committee on Fee Dispute Resolution, P. 0.         and the lawyer.
Box 671, Montgomery, AL 36101-0671.
                                                                 Alabama State Bar
Client Security Funds                                   Center for Professional Responsibility
  The Client Security Fund was established                       415 Dexter Avenue
by the Alabama State Bar to provide reim-                      Montgomery, AL 36104
bursement to individuals who have lost                              334-269-1515
money or property due to the dishonesty of                        www. alabar. org
an Alabama lawyer. All claims are investi-
gated by the Client Security Fund Committee.       Single copies of this brochure and others are free upon      Published by
Reimbursement is made at the discretion of         request by contacting the Alabama State Bar at the
                                                   above listed number or Web site.
the Client Security Fund Committee in appro-
priate cases. There is no right to reimburse-                            August 2006

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