Arizona Bar Complaint Attorney: Complaints with the Bar Against Attorneys
As a lawyer, receiving a charge or inquiry letter from the State Bar of Arizona can be a scary thing. Disciplinary action can have a major impact on an attorney’s career. After the Bar receives a complaint, an Arizona attorney will usually receive a call from Bar counsel to discuss the matter. If Bar counsel believes more information is needed, an inquiry letter will be sent to attorneys regarding their professional conduct. After receipt of the inquiry letter, the lawyer must respond to the State Bar within the time frame listed within the letter. Chelle Law can assist lawyers with:
Frequently Taken Bar Actions
The 2020 Annual Report of the Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee to the Arizona Supreme Court listed there were the following actions against attorneys licensed in AZ in 2020:
- Disbarred 8
- Suspended 36
- Reprimanded 24
- Diversion Agreements 122
- Dismissals with Comment 191
Receiving an ethics complaint or inquiry request letter from the State Bar of Arizona can be a scary thing. However, in 2020 the Bar received 2285 charges with 403 of those referred to investigation. Thus, only 17.6% of all charges were referred for confidential investigation.
Bar Discipline after Intake Review
However, most of the time an inquiry initiated after the Bar receives a “complaint” against a lawyer will begin with a call from an Intake Attorney with the Bar’s Lawyer Regulation Department. This Department resolves disputes and investigates allegations of misconduct, incapacity or lack of professionalism. After the intake call request the Bar can:
- Dismiss the charge
- Offer Diversion
- Prepare a Written Charge and refer the matter to the Litigation Department
Litigation Department Screening Investigation
The vast majority of charges are concluded in the Intake Department; however, if the charge is not dismissed or resolved via diversion, it will move forward for a screening investigation with the Arizona Bar’s Litigation Department. The assigned attorney reviews the charge, the lawyer’s response and the gathered evidence. The Bar’s attorney can continue to investigate and obtain additional evidence if desired. The assigned Litigation attorney then creates a Report of Investigation and makes recommendation to conclude the matter. The Litigation Department investigation can conclude via:
If the Litigation Department recommends diversion or discipline the case is submitted to the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee (“ADPCC”). The ADPCC reviews the Litigation Department’s recommendations and can:
- Affirm the Department’s recommendation
- Change the recommendation
- Dismiss the case
- Direct further investigation
If the lawyer under investigation disagrees with the ADPCC decision they have the opportunity to object and demand formal proceedings with the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Arizona Supreme Court.
Criminal Self Report to State Bar of AZ
Rule 54. Grounds for Discipline of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona, Arizona Revised Statutes holds that an attorney licensed in Arizona may be disciplined by the State Bar of Arizona upon the conviction of certain crimes. Rule 54 holds that an attorney shall be disciplined for:
- Conviction of a misdemeanor involving a serious crime
- Conviction of ANY felony
A serious crime is defined as any crime that involves interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, willful extortion, misappropriation, theft or moral turpitude. A conspiracy, a solicitation of another or any attempt to commit a serious crime, is considered a serious crime.
Legal Duty to Self-Report
Arizona Supreme Court Rule 61 describes the attorney’s duty to report certain criminal convictions to the State Bar of Arizona.
A lawyer shall, within twenty (20) days after the entry of judgment of a conviction of a misdemeanor involving a serious crime (as defined above) or of any felony, provide the following information to chief bar counsel:
- bar number
- address of record with the state bar,
- current address if different from the address of record;
- the name of the court in which the judgment of conviction was entered;
- the case or file number in which the judgment of conviction was entered; and
- the date the judgment of conviction was entered.
The 2020 Annual Report of the Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee to the Arizona Supreme Court listed there were 58 charges of the unauthorized practice of law with 32 of those referred to investigation.
The Arizona Supreme Court has jurisdiction over any person or entity engaged in the authorized or unauthorized practice of law in Arizona via Rule 31 of the Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court. The practice of law is defined as the following:
- Preparing or expressing legal opinions to or for another person or entity;
- Representing a person or entity in a judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative proceeding, or other formal dispute resolution process such as arbitration or mediation;
- Preparing a document, in any medium, on behalf of a specific person or entity for filing in any court, administrative agency, or tribunal;
- Negotiating legal rights or responsibilities on behalf of a specific person or entity; or
- Preparing a document, in any medium, intended to affect or secure a specific person’s or entity’s legal rights.
The State Bar of Arizona can take action against disbarred or suspended lawyers that continue to practice law or lawyers admitted in other states that are not free to practice law in Arizona. The Bar can also take action against non-lawyers who are practicing law through expenses, costs and cease and desist orders. Thus those subject to the unauthorized practice of law are:
- Disbarred or suspended lawyers
- Out of State lawyers
The Arizona Bar primarily handles the cases involving Arizona lawyers and lawyers from out of state. Non-lawyer cases are usually handled by the Arizona Superior Courts.
Attorneys for Ethics Complaints
If you are interested in discussing a State Bar of Arizona issue or want to discuss how to become a client contact Chelle Law today.