Iowa Applies Model Practices to Hold Lawyers Accountable
April 7, 2011
Contact: David Magee, General Operations, HALT
firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-887-8255
Washington, DC—Iowa’s system for regulating lawyers provides critical standards for attorney
discipline bodies across the country, according to consumer advocacy group HALT. This year, the
nonprofit group produced its Lawyer Discipline Best Practices report, a study drawing on HALT’s 32
years of aggressive advocacy to hold wrongdoers accountable coupled with feedback from disciplinary
officials, including Charles Harrington, Assistant Director of Iowa’s Office of Professional Regulation.
“For decades, HALT has recommended reforms to the attorney discipline system and we believe
widespread adoption of 10 straight-forward practices is necessary to enhance the public’s confidence in
lawyer-run systems,” stated HALT Executive Director Rodd Santomauro.
Among the highlighted procedures, HALT urges states to prohibit attorneys from retaliating
against former clients for filing complaints against them. HALT commended Iowa for providing
consumers with absolute immunity for statements made during the course of disciplinary proceedings—in
contrast to numerous states, which allow lawyers to sue consumers over words used in complaints and
communicated during disciplinary hearings.
“If other states would follow Iowa’s example, more consumers across the country would feel
comfortable coming forward and reporting attorney abuses,” explained Suzanne M. Blonder, Of Counsel
HALT is asking its Iowa members and the general public to sign a petition (found at
www.halt.org) which urges the Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board and Grievance Commission to adopt all
10 of HALT’s recommendations. We want lawyer discipline systems to:
Disclose a lawyer’s complete disciplinary history so that consumers can make informed decisions
about whether to retain an attorney.
Host a user-friendly Web site that is easily accessible and provides helpful information in regard
to the discipline process.
Discipline lawyers with formal, serious and public measures.
Permanently disbar lawyers who commit abusive practices against clients.
Abolish gag rules that prevent people from speaking publicly about complaints they’ve filed.
Publicize the availability of lawyer discipline programs through required client notification and
Open lawyer discipline hearings to everyone to increase the public trust.
Provide ordinary citizens with a majority voice on the panels that decide attorney misconduct
Grant clients and witnesses immunity from civil liability for any information given to the agency
during a disciplinary investigation.
Allow citizens to appeal initial complaint dismissals and hearing panel decisions.
Information about the Lawyer Discipline Best Practices report can be found at www.halt.org. Founded in
1978, HALT, Inc. is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group that challenges the legal establishment
to increase accountability in the civil justice system.