Arizona Lawyer Discipline Counsel | Bar Disciplinary Attorneys
The 2020 Annual Report of the Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee to the Arizona Supreme Court listed there were the following disciplinary actions against attorneys licensed in Arizona in 2020:
- Disbarred 8
- Suspended 36
- Reprimanded 24
- Diversion Agreements 122
- Dismissals with Comment 191
As a lawyer, receiving a charge or inquiry letter from the State Bar of Arizona can be a scary thing. After receipt of the inquiry letter, the lawyer must respond to the Bar within the time frame listed within the letter. In 2020 the Bar received 2285 charges with 403 of those referred to investigation for disciplinary review.
Attorney Discipline after Intake Review
However, most of the time an inquiry is 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 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 Department’s 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.
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. Our Arizona Unauthorized Practice of Law Counsel can assist with all allegations of the unauthorized practical of law. 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 practicing 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 AZ 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.
Attorney Duty to Self-Report
Arizona Supreme Court Rule 61 describes the attorney’s duty to self-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, release records and report 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.
Criminal Conviction of a Felony
A lawyer shall be suspended after the clerk’s receipt of proof of the lawyer’s conviction of a felony under either state or federal law, regardless of post conviction motions or an appeal, unless within ten (10) days of the clerk’s receipt of proof of the conviction the member files with the presiding disciplinary judge a verified motion showing good cause why the suspension should not be entered.
The presiding disciplinary judge may permit the lawyer to present oral argument in support of the lawyer’s motion and shall promptly grant or deny it. If the motion is denied, the lawyer shall be suspended as of the date the motion is denied. If the motion is granted, the lawyer shall not be suspended pending completion of a proceeding based on such conviction.
Serious Crime Misdemeanor Conviction for Attorneys
A lawyer convicted of a serious crime other than a felony may be suspended, upon motion of bar counsel, pending final disposition of a proceeding predicated upon the conviction. Within ten (10) days of bar counsel filing a motion, respondent may file with the presiding disciplinary judge a verified response showing good cause why respondent should not be suspended. The presiding judge may permit respondent to present oral argument in support of the respondent’s response and shall promptly grant or deny the motion. If the motion is granted, the lawyer shall be suspended as of the date of such order.
Reinstatement after a Conviction is Reversed or Vacated
If a lawyer is suspended due to the instances listed above, the lawyer can have their interim suspension vacated if they demonstrate that the underlying conviction has been reversed or vacated. If the lawyer provides proof that the conviction has been reversed or vacated, the order for interim suspension shall be vacated and the lawyer placed on active status.
However, if the interim suspension is vacated is does not mean that any investigation by the Bar automatically terminates. Any pending proceeding against the lawyer will be determined on the basis of the available evidence.
Arizona Lawyer Bar Ethics Rules
The AZ Rules of Professional Responsibility (“ARPR”) are a set of guidelines that govern a lawyer’s ethical obligations. These rules cover a wide range of topics and provide a framework for how a lawyer should react in certain situations. The ARPR also outline sanctions for violating these rules, which can include suspension from the practice of law. Commons areas where attorneys can get into trouble include:
- Conflicts of interest
- Failure to disclose adverse interests
- Theft of client settlements
- Fraud, deceit and misrepresentation
- Failure to protect confidential information
- Failure to report attorney misconduct
- Criminal Convictions
Sometimes it can be tough to know where the line is between creative and unethical conduct – especially if you’re recently licensed to practice or starting out on your own. Our Arizona Bar Ethics Lawyer is available to address specific ethical concerns; so that you don’t find yourself in a tight spot!
Types of State Discipline
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 Arizona in 2020:
- Disbarred 8
- Suspended 36
- Reprimanded 24
- Diversion Agreements 122
- Dismissals with Comment 191
As a lawyer, receiving a charge or inquiry letter from the State Bar of Arizona can be a scary thing. After receipt of the inquiry letter, the lawyer must respond to the Bar within the time frame listed within the letter. In 2020 the Bar received 2285 charges with 403 of those referred to investigation. Our Arizona Lawyer Discipline Counsel can assist with all Arizona Bar issues.
Arizona Character and Fitness Lawyer
The Character and Fitness application for licensure with the State Bar of Arizona ensures that applicants for the Bar not only meet Arizona’s requirement for the practice of law, but also show the ability to perform professional work in an open and honest manner and are not a danger to the public. The State Bar requires the disclosure of personal and professional history from Arizona attorneys looking for admissions, including:
- Criminal history
- Civil Actions
- Past employment
- Other professional licenses
- Traffic Cases
Character and Fitness Committee
Any past incidents involving the issues listed above could trigger an investigation by the Arizona Supreme Court Committee of Character and Fitness (“Committee“). An investigation could result in:
- A request for further information
- Informal Inquiry
- Informal Hearing
The Committee may, after further questions, investigation or hearing, recommend:
- Recommendation for Admission
- Denial of Admission
- Denial of Admission with suggestions for future re-application
- Conditional Admission (conditioned on compliance with terms)
The 2020 Annual Report of the Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee to the Arizona Supreme Court listed there were (after Informal Inquiries in 2020):
- Regular Admission 38
- Conditional Admission 5
- Referred for Formal Hearing 6
- Withdrew Application 2
Consultation With Chelle Law
If you’re interested in learning more about our Arizona Bar Complaint Attorney services and how to protect your license, set up a consultation with Chelle Law and reach out to us today.